Reject rehab facility
I previously wrote about how the Hot Springs Planning Commission would soon consider whether to allow a 48-bed drug rehab facility in my residential neighborhood, the Whittington Valley. Much to my dismay, the commission approved the project.
What is wrong with the planning commission? Do they even think about the impact of their decisions? They seem divorced from any consideration of how people will have to live with the consequences of the commission's decisions. I think the members of the commission should be required to reside next to such projects. Then let's see how they vote!
A few months ago, the planning commission approved a plan to put 18 short-term rentals in the middle of a residential neighborhood by labeling the project a unique "planned development" -- when it was more akin to an old-style motor motel or resort -- which does not belong in a residential neighborhood. In response, the residents of that neighborhood banded together and appealed to the Hot Springs Board of Directors, explaining just how damaging such a commercial enterprise would be for their community. The Hot Springs Board of Directors listened and sent the project back to the planning commission for reconsideration.
Now history repeats itself. The planning commission has approved placing a 48-bed drug rehab facility in my residential neighborhood. My neighbors and I are asking the Hot Springs Board of Directors to exercise a little common sense and reject having a large-scale drug rehab facility next to a popular public park in a residential neighborhood of single-family homes.
The planning commission did not weigh the neighborhoods' best interests when approving these two projects. It appears the planning commission rubber stamps whatever is placed before them.
All Hot Springs residents should be uneasy. You, too, could be the next "victim" of the planning commission's flawed and narrow-minded decision-making process. The commission could easily assign your neighborhood a similar "project" -- perhaps a homeless shelter, a large-scale drug rehab center or motor motel masquerading as a "unique residential development" of short-term rentals. These real-life scenarios make the recent complaint by East Gate residents about a potential bank along Malvern appear quaint (but even then, the Hot Springs Board of Directors exercised good judgment and voted to keep the site residential).
Citizens of Hot Springs, please be aware that if the city board of directors approves placing a 48-bed drug rehab facility in my neighborhood, it will establish a dangerous precedent making no residential neighborhood "safe" from this type of project. Please let your city director know that a 48-bed drug rehab facility does not belong in a residential neighborhood -- not mine and not yours. If this project is approved, every residential neighborhood will be in danger.
The board meeting to consider my neighborhood's appeal is on Tuesday, May 4. If you can attend and help our neighborhood it would be greatly appreciated. Call your city director and let them know your thoughts on this topic.
Thank you for your support.
Not the 'right location'
In case you don't know, the Hot Springs Planning Commission has approved a proposal for a 48-bed rehab facility to be located next to Linden Park, just off Whittington Avenue. My neighbors and I, who live in this area, hope that our mayor and city directors will reevaluate and deny this proposal.
I write today on behalf of not only my neighbors, but for all citizens of Hot Springs who walk, run, hike, bike, and play on and around Whittington and Linden Parks, and for the tourists who come with their children to visit Tiny Town, and families who take their children to Linden Park to play. If approved, there will be an increase in construction and commercial vehicles as well as ongoing traffic to and from the facility. I write to preserve the character of this area as a recreational and historical treasure.
There are so many of us (myself included) who have known and loved someone who needs a place to get sober, get off drugs, or recover from other harmful addictions. Hot Springs is one of the kindest cities I know. I understand that there is a need for such a facility, but this is not the right location. Whittington Valley represents the history of Hot Springs, the place where horses and buggies still come every night, where the community band plays on the Fourth of July, where kids play soccer, and where photographers take pictures of graduating seniors and babies.
My husband and I bought a house on Whittington Avenue in 2005, and during the last two years, we have been blessed to have my two daughters and their families move here. My granddaughters are young elementary school students and they have joined soccer teams that have held practice in Linden Park. Lately, we have also enjoyed watching as the "kids" from the Arkansas School for Math Science and the Arts (along with their coach) joyously walk (or even skip) to Linden Park most afternoons with soccer balls, laughing and joking, enjoying their practice time!
I have seen many rehab facilities in Oklahoma, Mississippi, and here in Hot Springs. Usually, you can tell it is a rehab facility by the number of people outside in the parking lots or on the grounds smoking cigarettes. Just that image (at least for me) would make Linden Park less appealing for families and youth activities. And we as ordinary citizens won't have the right to tell people they can't smoke on the property that will be their temporary home. I even feel awkward mentioning it.
To say yes to this facility means changing the character of this historical area, a gem nestled on all sides by the National Park and which serves as a quiet refuge for so many of our citizens.
Our last chance to talk to the city board of directors about this will be Tuesday, May 4, at 6 p.m., 133 Convention Blvd., Hot Springs.