This is an outrage and if it happens be sure to put blame on House Speaker Davy Carter’s chief of staff Gabe Holmstrom along with reactionary Republican Rep. Nate Bell of Mena.
Bell, whether coincidentally or intentionally, took up Holmstrom’s unhappiness about rules in the Capitol Zoning District that limit fence height around residences to 40 inches, though waivers may be granted. Bell first tried to legislate fence height, an unbelievable bit of government meddling in a planning process meant to preserve the historic character of neighorhoods around the Capitol and Governor’s Mansion. Holmstrom’s a key figure because his friend Patrick Cowan lost a fence waiver bid and Holmstrom himself is still bent out of shape because he was told he’d be required to get a waiver for a 48-inch fence to pen his dogs around a house he bought on Louisiana Street. He never even applied for it, so outraged that such a wonderful man as himself should have to stoop to such a process. An attitude he put on full display before the Commission, by the way.
The meddling has forced the Zoning District Comission into a review process to consider changing the height requirement to 48 inches. But the fact that the process was underway wasn’t good enough for Mena meddler Bell and Holmstrom. Somebody — wonder who? — put a hold on the Zoning District’s budget bill.
And that still wasn’t enough for the bullies.
There’s now been a midnight amendment to Bell’s bill as the legislature winds down. It would ABOLISH the Capitol Zoning District Commission entirely. It would turn zoning authority over to the city of Little Rock. EXCEPT: It would transfer existing power on monuments on the Capitol grounds to Mark Martin. Yes, Secretary of State Mark Martin. AND: It would exempt the state building authority from city zoning control. AND: It would mandate 48-inch fences under the city zoning rules.
This overturns decades of precedent and a system that works well and inexpensively because of a debate over eight inches of fence height. All it takes is a couple of bullies who are intent on getting their way at any cost, no matter how much damage is done to neighborhoods that have improved dramatically in part thanks to a sound system of planning oversight. It’s just nuts. It may be yet another pressure tactic to coerce a change in rules for Holmstron’s fence, but it’s petty, ugly stuff. Typical of the batch of irrelevant and mean-spirited stuff this new majority cooked up before it decided to finally get around to poor sick children.
I’m thinking somebody should introduce a bill to abolish the Mena Planning Commission and put it under Martha Shoffner’s control.
UPDATE: Holmstrom responded to an e-mail question about the latest development:
When Mr. Bell informed me that he was going to amend the bill, I asked him not to do so and to just leave it alone. He told me he was going to proceed with the amendment as he had reviewed the agency and felt it was appropriate. I can assure you I will go talk with Mr. Bell again tomorrow about this matter. I will work to see that the Capitol Zoning District will be around for many years to come.