It’s been a process that has taken several months, but the North Little Rock City Council on Thursday voted to amend its hillside cut ordinance.
The amendment was the culmination of work by aldermen, officials from the city engineer’s office, planning department, and people from the general public.
The work was the result of many complaints that took place several months ago after citizens in the Skyline Drive area were complaining about a proposed hillside cut sought after by First Pentecostal Church.
Aldermen rejected a proposal by former Mayor Patrick Hays, who supported the hillside cut, but aldermen decided to go against the church’s request in part because of the protests raised by the Skyline neighborhood.
The months-long battle over the city was between the church and neighborhood — which placed aldermen in the middle of public meetings filled with many angry residents who were concerned that the cut would negatively impact their homes. The church wanted the council to go along with the cut because its leadership told them the church needed extra parking space for special events held there during different times of the year.
The legislation’s chief sponsor, Alderwoman Debi Ross, said she is pleased with how the amendment passed.
"The buffer zone is increased by 50 percent plus the width of any utility easement in the buffer zone when a hillside cut is adjoining a residential area," Ross said. "Re-vegetation/landscaping is required."
Ross added that property owners within 200 feet must be notified of a proposed hillside cut. In addition, if it is adjoining residential property owners within 400 feet, property owners must be notified by certified mail.
The cost to obtain a hillside cut permit is $300 for applicants, she added.
Violation penalties have been added to the amendment.
"There were no fines in the ordinance before the amendment," Ross said.
Robert Voyles, North Little Rock’s director of planning and development, said the goal of the amended legislation was to keep hillside cut proposes within the jurisdiction of the city planning commission.
Voyles added that the amendment would do a better job of information residential neighborhoods that a hillside cut is being proposed close to where they live.
"We are very supportive of the effort and agree that people should be notified," Voyles said. "Neighborhoods should be notified if someone is making a major cut in a hillside close to them."
North Little Rock legal counsel Matt Fleming if a proposed hillside cut is turned down by the city planning commission the applicant will have the right to appeal the decision to the city council.
"If it is approved, there would be no need to come to the city council," Fleming said. "If denied they could appeal to the city council."