by Max Brantley
A public hearing is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Thursday by the Capitol Zoning District Commission, 410 South Battery, on a rule change to lift building height restrictions around the Capitol from three to five stories. This is prompted by a request by developer John Burkhalter, a major supporter of Gov. Mike Beebe, to build an office building at Sixth and Woodlane Streets. At a previous hearing, Wayne Woods of the Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods ad agency, another important political player, said his firm was considering being a tenant in the building.
An opponent of the increased building height successfully stopped earlier approval of the deal by a lawsuit over the failure of the commission to adopt a formal rules change to allow the taller building.
The Quapaw Quarter Association, which works to preserve historic neighborhoods, has announced its opposition to the plan and explains on the jump. Protection of views of the Capitol is part of the group's objection, but not all.
Quapaw Quarter Association's Position
The Quapaw Quarter Association strongly opposes amending the Capitol Area Master Plan to rezone the two blocks between 6th and 7th from Woodlane to Pulaski from A2 to A1. A main goal of the Capitol Area Framework Master Plan and Design Standards is to establish a distinct identity for the neighborhood that will continue to serve as a foreground for the Capitol and also to enhance it. This means that key view corridors to the building should be defined and preserved. Such a rezoning would allow new construction of up to five stories, which would be inconsistent with a key goal and purpose of the Capitol Zoning District Commission to "maintain and enhance views to the Capitol". The area proposed for rezoning is within a defined view corridor; rezoning would open the door for construction that does not maintain views of the Capitol building and dome from I-630, a key entry point into the capital city.
Additionally, the Capitol Area Framework master Plan and Design Standards have been in use for several years and are readily available to the public. The QQA feels that it is not appropriate for the Capitol Zoning District Commission to initiate amendments to the Master Plan to accommodate a specific project.