It was the first request of its kind to North Little Rock leaders but it would appear it won’t be the last. The issue was rezoning but doing so to convert a city home into a business where three elderly disabled people could reside with a caregiver.

The North Little Rock City Council on Dec. 23 turned down a request by a Lonoke man to rezone 4404 Arlington Drive from R-1 residential to R-2. Arlington is located in the residential neighborhood of the Lakewood Addition.

Koy Butler, who owns House of Three, 23 Lyric Lane, Little Rock, made the request on Nov. 13 to the North Little Rock Planning Commission but it was rejected by a unanimous vote with one abstention.

Even though the planning commission voted against his proposal, he sought to get the approval of the City Council.

If the council had approved the request, Butler would have been granted the rezoning with special use subject to three stipulations:

- He would have had to meet all federal, state and city requirements;

- A business license would have to be issued after planning commission staff confirmed that all requirements had been met;

- The applicant would understand that failure to comply with these conditions may result in the loss of the special use and/or removal of the electric power meter.

If approved, Butler would have been permitted to house the three elderly people with an around-the-clock caregiver.

Several council members expressed the need of such a facility in North Little Rock but said rezoning a residential neighborhood could potentially harm nearby residents.

The council voted down the proposal by a 6-2 margin, with Aldermen Maurice Taylor and Murry Witcher supporting it.

Alderman Debi Ross said Butler’s project had merit but stressed the R-2 rezoning could allow many other types of businesses to locate there, thus damaging the neighborhood.

Alderman Bruce Foutch said having three persons under one roof does exempt caregiving businesses from as much scrutiny from state health regulators than would a larger facility.

Butler said his type of facility is going to be in strong demand because some elderly and disabled need 24-hour supervision and similar, larger facilities such as nursing homes can cost residents or their families more than $15,000 per month in Little Rock and $8,000 in North Little Rock.

"A facility like mine would cost about $5,000," Butler said.

Alderman Charlie Hight said he sees the need for such facilities in North Little Rock even though the point of contention was rezoning a residential neighborhood.

Hight asked Mayor Joe Smith if there could be a study done to see how facilities like these could be permitted in North Little Rock.

"We have an aging population," Hight said.

Smith told Hight that there has been another person who has expressed interested to opening up a similar facility in North Little Rock.

Alderman Beth White said she does see the usefulness of such a facility in North Little Rock but rezoning a home in a residential neighbor could pose a real problem.