Sunday, October 2, 2011

They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot.....Ooooo la la la la

It is Sunday afternoon, 1:25pm. It's sunny and in the low 70's, with a slight breeze.

This morning I grouted the newly tiled floor in our master bathroom and when I finished - after taking 3 ibuprofen instead of just the recommended 2 - I jumped crawled into the shower in the guest bath and scrubbed the sweat from my body and the grout from underneath my fingernails. When I got dressed, I put on a pair of comfy, but nice yoga pants and a respectable top, i.e. not a t-shirt or sweat shirt. I even put on earrings. Hoo Wee! I'm a grown up!

While I was in shower, Tom made a beautiful plate of sliced tomatoes, basil and cheeses drizzled in balsamic vinegar (the aged stuff, thank you very much) and olive oil (cheap brand).


Tom sliced a small boule I had taken out of the freezer a couple of days ago and made toasted some crostini, and then opened a bottle of red wine. I've had 1-1/2 glasses and I may finish the bottle by this evening.

You see, I am sitting outside on the patio in my backyard and even though the weather is beyond beautiful and the lunch Tom prepared was absolutely perfect, I am seething inside because all I can hear and see is heavy construction.

I can sit on my patio and watch the construction workers build the roof to the 14-bay gas station.

I know in a previous post I said it was an 8-bay gas station. I was wrong. This gas station will be the biggest gas station in the city. Even bigger than any gas station at any Conway exit off the interstate. We don't live near the interstate. We don't live on or near a major four lane artery through the city. Our street dead-ends into a two lane road with a left hand turn lane into ours and other residential neighborhoods.

Five years ago when we moved into this house, our backyard was separated from the existing Kroger neighborhood market by an empty field. The property, though undeveloped, was zoned light office for the intent purpose of providing a "buffer zone." Kroger applied several times to construct a gas station and each time their request was denied, citing concerns for the surrounding residential neighborhoods and increased traffic and noise.

Another request for a drive-through restaurant to be constructed within 100-feet of our backyard was unanimously denied, citing a potential negative impact on our quality of life.

But, on November 23, 2010, an expansion project was approved that would include the 14-bay gas station and more than double the size of the current Kroger to nearly 152,000 square foot, a super mega center. Apparently, the 8-bay gas station and drive-through restaurant previously requested would have been far too intrusive, but the larger fuel center and mega center are not. I have trouble figuring out the city council's logic (I refuse to call it 'wisdom' as I see nothing wise in their decision).

Residents of our neighborhood and others organized to oppose the expansion, but I knew all of the "public hearings" were just for show. Prior to any public hearings or planning commission meetings or city council meetings, the city released plans to expand our two-lane-with-left-turn-lane road into a four lane divided road, with no left turn lanes....oops, actually it include only one left turn lane - a new access road into the Kroger gas station, parking lot and receiving bays. Now that road did not (and as yet does not) exist when the city plans were drawn. In fact, there is currently a house still standing where the driveway is supposed to be. It's this house...


This little house was built sometime around 1946 and is on the National Register of Historic Places primarily because of its unique masonry work done by Silas Owens, Sr., a self-taught African-American mason whose work from about 1938 to 1955 is prominent throughout Faulkner County. The home is of local significance as an example of a Craftsman influenced mixed masonry veneer by Mr. Owen. The simple house prominently displays the clean herringbone pattern of Owens’ superior craftsmanship.

The house sits next door to a bank to its east, and a suburban neighborhood, our neighborhood, built during the 1980's to its west. The front yard faces Prince Street, that same soon-to-be four-lane divided road which is currently an internal artery from west Conway into downtown. The house is scheduled to be demolished and in it's place will be a drive way...the only driveway in about a two mile stretch of road that will be accessible by a left hand turn lane. Imagine that. One left turn lane and it's for Kroger. Hmmmmmm.

When we inquired why the city would include that particular driveway in the plan without a decision one way or the other by the planning commission, let alone, if denied, an appeal and approval by the city council. "Is it already a done deal?" we asked. Oh, no, of course not, came the reply. "It's just a drawing," we were told.

To that I just say..BULL SHIT!

It was a done deal long ago. Long before any public hearings. Long before any planning commission meetings. Long before the planning commission denied the application (yes, they denied it). Long before the appeal was submitted to the city council and before the city council advised Kroger to withdraw their application for rezoning and apply for a PUD (Planned Unit Development) and it's subsequent approval. Long before any of it, a deal was made between the mayor and Kroger.

Drawings for major city projects do not include roads that do not currently exist unless the city (read: mayor) has already decided that the project will be approved.

And why would the city council vote 5 - 3 in favor of such a project when it had unanimously denied much smaller previous projects? Easy. Ego, poor city management and the promise of increased revenue. The city has approved and built parks and ball fields without one thought given to the cost of long term maintenance. They've built overpasses and new roads when they can't even maintain existing ones. They've approved huge shopping centers and installed extra stoplights and roads for them which have created some of the worst traffic bottlenecks I've ever seen. There's no money for employee raises and there were talks of reduced hours. The city has borrowed repeatedly from the city sanitation department funds in order to merely pay its bills.

Our mayor and city council have no idea what planned growth means. They want Conway to be "the envy of other cities" so they continually approve BIGGER and what they perceive to be better projects with no thought as to the impact. They want the revenue because they believe it will solve all of their problems and they won't have to take responsibility for their poor past decisions. All of that tax revenue from the BIGGER and better Kroger is going to fix everything (WHEW!!). They are like spoiled brat teenagers. They want what they want and they want it now and to hell with the consequences, particularly since it's not in their backyard.

I have to wonder how those council members who voted in favor of the expansion would feel if they were my neighbors just three doors down. Kroger has expanded the small market to literally within a few feet of their backyards. Where there used to be a "buffer zone" sits the end of the building that will be the super center, a gray brick wall about 30 feet high and about 200 wide. The 8-foot fence Kroger finally agreed to build will not help my neighbors.

So, here I sit on my patio listening to the constant beeping of heavy construction vehicles, a rotohammer drilling holes in brick walls that were just constructed, huge saws cutting the pieces of metal for a roof I was told I wouldn't even be able to see (but, obviously, I can and so can my neighbors). And it's Sunday. It's freakin' Sunday! We don't even get one damn day of quiet.

We're lucky, I suppose. They didn't start work this morning until 8:00am. They usually start at 6:30am. Most evenings they finally stop working about 6:00 and you can actually take a deep breath and enjoy the quiet, but Friday night they worked until after 7:00pm.

No, there aren't any ordinances to prevent or limit the noise or the dirt storms. And, even if there were, I doubt very seriously if they would ever be enforced. It's the selfish teenage brat thing.

So, I sit in my office every day, listening to heavy construction vehicles beeping constantly because they are traveling backwards and wonder why the hell they can't go forward once in a while. I listen to my windows and cabinet doors rattle and feel my desk, chair and laptop vibrate underneath me and think it's worse than any earthquake I've ever felt because it never stops. So many times I want to just grab my purse, get in my car and get as far away from here as I possibly can just to make it all stop. Many times during the day, I curse those who voted in favor of this project. They have no idea what they have done to my quality of life. Or maybe they do know, but they just don't give a goddamn.

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