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Paving the way: Little Rock board confirms rezoning along Highway 10 in face of lawsuit.

JESSE MASON JR., A LITTLE Rock city director, spoke with the eloquence of a preacher at the Sunday pulpit as he addressed a packed Board of Directors meeting room last week.

"We have to be realistic; everything must change," he told the crowd during the city board's meeting Feb. 16. "Nothing remains the same."

Yet it was the good fortune of National Home Centers Inc., Vogel Realty of Little Rock and numerous landowners along state Highway 10 that the city board didn't change from its stance taken on Jan. 19.

Mason and three other directors -- Dr. Hamp Roy, Jeff Sharp and Joan Adcock -- had decided Jan. 19 that change, at least over the zoning of one section of land on Highway 10, was in order. The resulting four-week maelstrom didn't alter their thinking, either.

Director John Lewellen missed the Jan. 19 meeting and the 4-2 vote to rezone 17.7 acres of land at a corner of Highway 10 and West Taylor Loop Road in west Little Rock. The commercial rezoning was to allow National Home Centers to build a 180,000-SF warehouse and retail outlet on the site.

So on Feb. 10, Lewellen proposed an ordinance to repeal the rezoning. It merely gave him a chance to vote, but it didn't alter the outcome. Lewellen's proposal lost, 3-4. Lewellen, director Sharon Priest and Mayor Jim Dailey voted for repeal.

That means the way is paved, barring a court injunction or a successful lawsuit, for National Home Centers to construct its building.

NHC is buying 16.7 of the 17.7 acres from a private partnership led by Marvin Itzkowitz. The purchase of residential land now rezoned commercial means NHC may save $1 million, observers say.

"We're working on closing on the sale," says David Jones, broker for Vogel Realty, which is listing the property. "We're trying to push toward closing immediately. There is the legal matter, but as far as we're concerned it's a done deal."

Danny Funderburg, NHC vice president, says the company doesn't anticipate any delay.

"We will try to start moving dirt and do site work as soon as we can get |the sale~ done," he says.

Following Guidelines

Opponents to the rezoning last week lamented the construction of what they termed a "pre-fab lumberyard" in an area deemed a scenic corridor by the Highway 10 land-use plan. Highway 10 has a specific overlay plan with designated commercial nodes.

Dwain Newman, founder and president of the Springdale-based National Home Centers, says the site will follow set guidelines.

The proposed brick, metal and wood building will occupy 5.9 acres under roof. About 3.3 acres will be landscaped with trees at least 12 feet tall. The remaining land will be used for an interior courtyard and parking.

A 24-foot, U-shaped wall would surround the building, protecting the neighborhood from the goings-on inside. The site, employing up to 175 people, would serve both contractors and retail buyers, Newman says.

Newman, beaming after the board's decision, estimates the project, including the land, will cost about $6 million to $6.5 million.

"It will blend in with the area," Newman says. "At the completion of the project and a year from now, people will drive by and see the Kroger and Harvest Foods |east of the project on Highway 10~ and see this also as an asset to the community.

"It is our intention to maintain the culture and beauty of the area."

Newman says the largest building in the complex would be "like a Wal-Mart Supercenter," but the business would have far less traffic than a Wal-Mart.

NHC built a facility in North Little Rock in 1985 and took over a building at Rodney Parham Road and Markham Street in 1988. Newman says the company is anticipating a fourth store in the area "in due time."

Difficulties for the Highway 10 site could remain in the form of legal action.

Leading the opposition is Gene Pfeifer, owner of various tracts of land on Highway 10 and a direct competitor to NHC as owner of OneSource Home and Building Centers. More to the point, Pfeifer will wake up each morning to the view of National Home Center across from his country estate on Highway 10.

Pfeifer and others filed suit against the city on Feb. 10 challenging the rezoning.

Dailey says city attorney Tom Carpenter "has made it very clear |the board's decision~ looks very strong. He says this will probably stand the test of court."
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Title Annotation:Little Rock, Arkansas
Author:Harris, Jim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Feb 22, 1993
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