The Prairie Grove Planning Commission is denying approval but may need to reconsider the decision

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PRAIRIE GROVE — The Prairie Grove Planning Commission recently voted to deny an application for a conditional multi-family occupancy permit, but the commission may need to reconsider its decision on the basis of legal advice.

Kerry Pitts applied for a conditional occupancy permit to build townhouses on the 1.34-acre lot between the Prairie Grove Police Department and Durham’s Gymnastics Building.

The commission approved such a permit for Dwight Bartholomew about two years ago, but now Pitts has a contract to purchase the property from Bartholomew.

Larry Oelrich, the city’s administrative assistant, told commissioners that since the property is changing hands, a new conditional occupancy permit must be approved for the new owner.

The next day, however, Oelrich said the city was further investigating Pitt’s request and it was possible the commission might have to reconsider its decision at another meeting.

Oelrich said city attorney Steven Parker believes the conditional occupancy permit is a permanent zoning decision.

Pitts told commissioners May 12 he proposed building three six-plex blocks and renters would have access from the US 62 bypass and from the back of the property. Pitts is already building townhouses in the same area.

Commissioner Brea Gragg, who is also a Prairie Grove City Council member, said she thought the property was an “odd place for townhouses”.

Gragg said she is concerned that the land is one of the last places for commercial real estate along US 62B.

Pitts responded that he believed the townhouses were a “stepping stone” for families.

“We think it’s a good buffer,” Pitts told commissioners, adding that his tenants include teachers and clerks for businesses in Prairie Grove.

“I think we made a mistake the first time,” Gragg said. “I don’t think it’s in the interest of the city.”

David Faulk, a new commissioner, agreed with Gragg, adding, “We think it would look out of place.”

Another commissioner, Shayne Taylor, noted that when the commission approved a conditional occupancy permit for Bartholomew, the city didn’t have the housing boom it has now.

Gragg moved to deny Pitts’ request.

“I’m struggling to give up this piece of land for this,” Gragg said. “For me it’s one of the best places in town.”

Pitts then asked if Bartholomew still had the option of building townhouses on the property.

Oelrich told him he would look into the matter and also whether Pitts could appeal the Commission’s decision to the Council.

Pitts walked out of the session before the commission voted to deny his motion.

In another area, the commission approved the large-scale development plan for a new daycare called Caterpillars to Butterflies Christian Daycare on South Mock Street. Jerry Coyle of Prairie Grove submitted the plan for the facility.

It also approved a conditional use permit for Kevin Shackelford to operate a fireworks display at the Sounds of Pentecost Church, 2351 E. Heritage Parkway.

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