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Duplex project approved over objections

Despite protests from some living on North Dandridge Street, the Paris Planning and Zoning Commission last week unanimously approved a conditional use permit allowing a Lavaca developer to build 12 to 15 duplexes in Paris.

The vote capped a one hour and 24 minute discussion, which included a public hearing. About 25 people attended the meeting, which took place on Thursday, June 13 at the Municipal Building.

James Webb, owner of Clearwater Properties of Lavaca, wants to build the units on a 4.2 acre vacant lot on the eastern side of North Dandridge. The lot is behind the Bank of the Ozarks branch on East Walnut Street. He told the commission he plans to build two-bedroom, one-bath units in stages and may construct as many as 18 units depending on market demand. A conditional use permit is required because the property is zoned commercial.

Planning and Zoning Commissioners Eric Wells, Paul Young and Fred Donham voted to approve the conditional use permit. Commission chairman Jo Minden did not vote.

Several residents of the area complained that the city infrastructure there, especially sewer lines, would not support the 18 units.

“I realize something has to be built, but you have to have support for it,” said James Fletcher, who lives on North Dandridge Street. “When it rains, we live in squalor and everybody knows it. If you can fix that, build whatever you want.”

Fletcher told commissioners he was neither for or against the development.

Bob Pruitt, another resident of North Dandridge Street, told commissioners that sewer lines weren’t adequate.

“We’ve had sewage coming into our house,” Pruitt said. “Adding that many customers on that line won’t help. The conditional use permit requires that public facilities not be overloaded.”

Pruitt also said the new units will increase noise in the neighborhood, glare in surrounding homes and traffic on North Dandridge Street.

“I understand we need rental units,” Pruitt said. “But, I also understand our infrastructure is crud. We’re not the only ones hurting.”

Andy Dibble, an engineer with the Mikle Wagner Coleman engineering firm of Fort Smith, was hired by the city to take a look at sewer lines in that area, according to Mayor Daniel Rogers.

“Today, you can’t put anything smaller than an eight-inch main and those are six-inch mains and I understand they’re not in good shape,” Dibble told commissioners.

“You don’t have a dry weather problem,” he said, “you have a wet weather problem. When it rains, it backs up.

“Adding 18 duplexes on a dry day like today won’t make a lick of difference,” he said. “When it rains, you’re still going to have a problem.”

“At some point, the city will have to make the decision of when it gets fixed,” Dibble said.

Dibble also told commissioners that replacing a “couple of thousand feet of line” will cost between $200,000 and $250,000.

During the public comment section, Realtors Tamera Athey and Carla Wells and Paris resident Jamie Wells spoke in favor of the project, which is anticipated costing $3 million.

After the public comment period, commissioners briefly discussed the matter among themselves and then approved a motion to issue the conditional use permit.

After the meeting, Pruitt said “obviously none of us are happy.”

The commission’s decision can be appealed to the Paris City Council.

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