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Highway 10 plan an ill-fated dream.

Highway 10 Plan An Ill-fated Dream

The Highway 10 plan came under pressure again June 19 as a group of property owners asked the Little Rock Planning Commission to moderate a proposed overlay district. The plan's goal is simple enough: Keep Arkansas 10 as scenic and uncongested as possible, but its future is an exercise in futility.

In theory the plan makes sense, but in practice the forces poised against it will inevitably undermine it. Why? Consider the dynamics of the situation.

The plan's vision of a scenic corridor must compete against two firmly entrenched American beliefs: our love of the automobile and the suburban sprawl it breeds, and the rights of landowners to sell their property to the highest bidder. The plan itself is an idealized blueprint for city growth, pleasing to the eye, but divorced from what makes society tick.

Realtors don't oppose zoning when it enhances property values, but they'll fight to the finish if they think the city is standing in the way of making a profit. On Arkansas 10 where traffic exceeds 55 mph and areas are zoned residential, it is hard to imagine home owners thrilled by the possibility of living next to the roadway.

This basic object lesson in economics gets muddied by protestations of idealism on the part of board members and protestors. If the city genuinely wants to create a scenic corridor it should buy up the land at a reasonable price and dedicate it to an appropriate use. But that costs lots of money, entails a sacrifice by taxpayers and it's apparently easier to fight the losing battle of trying to maintain the plan's integrity.

On heavily traveled Arkansas 10 a rezoning from residential to commercial can dramatically increase the value of a piece of property. Commercial zoning equals higher density use and that translates into higher prices per square foot, the bottom line of the sale price.

Naturally, land owners want the highest price possible for the land and developers want the same. More important, city governments will come and go, but real estate brokers itching for a commission and property owners eager to sell will remain.

Over time, the forces of money and self-interest will surely win out leaving the well-intentioned plan in tatters. In the final counting, the right to sell your property for the highest price is deemed a higher good than letting

someone in city hall tell you what you can do with it.
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Title Annotation:Arkansas
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:editorial
Date:Jul 2, 1990
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