The El Dorado Planning and Zoning Commission met Tuesday, welcoming new commissioner Erin (Malone) McMurrian, who filled a months long-vacancy.
The meeting was short, with one primary piece of business. The commission revisited Ordinance 1773, which former Mayor Frank Hash asked them to clarify last year. The ordinance restricts parking on front lawns for residences on certain streets in El Dorado.
The issue lies in a clause of the ordinance that reads “no person shall pave or gravel a yard to the extent that such paving or gravelling violates the zoning ordinance;” however, no zoning ordinance exists prohibiting paving or gravelling any yards.
“So City Council has asked us to look at that, and we can’t find anything in the zoning ordinance that actually prohibits any paving or gravelling of the front yard,” said Kelly Halstead, commission chairwoman. “For example, if we’re going to prohibit paving or gravelling on these arterial streets — a great example are Heather [McVay, City Clerk] and I’s houses. We both have half-round (circle) driveways, and how do we craft an ordinance to allow that or not allow that? That’s what they’re asking.”
The ordinance was passed in 2008 and prohibits parking in any yard on a list of main arterial and collector streets in El Dorado. The P&Z Commission discussed the ordinance at their January meeting as well, when they decided to take a month to look at other municipalities’ zoning codes to try to find a way to clarify El Dorado’s.
Commissioner Scott Ellen mentioned using neighborhood covenants (similar to homeowner associations) in the various residential areas of the city to help regulate and enforce parking rules. Although El Dorado has not had a major subdivision development in recent years, Ellen said covenants for older subdivisions, which were upheld for about 30 years, were effective in controlling neighborhood parking rules.
“Their intent was, these main artery streets, where there’s a lot of traffic and visibility and it becomes an eye-sore,” Ellen said. “I would suggest that we get some help from the tax assessor and dig up the old restricted covenants and consider trying to at least parallel or honor that intent of a subdivision. It is unfortunate that most property owners don’t realize that they can extend those restricted covenants after the 30-year expiration date.”
Halstead noted that neighborhood covenants are private agreements between residents and cannot be enforced by the city. Ellen said covenants can at times be more enforceable since they are agreements between neighbors.
Commissioner Gaven Ballinger said the Zoning Department’s definition of driveway is unclear, so the commission may be able to clear everything up by simply clarifying that definition.
“The definition of a driveway is not fully expanded upon, so you could add some teeth by diving into the definition of driveway and then they could pave or gravel in specific areas that were defined as the driveway,” Ballinger said.
The commission did not take action to alter or clarify the ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting. Instead, they made plans to hold a specially called meeting before an upcoming City Council meeting in order to discuss the ordinance with council members and find out exactly what sort of clarification the city is looking for.
Halstead told commissioners they may soon see more interest in the commission from El Dorado residents who are concerned about a medical marijuana dispensary that plans to open in a residential section of Ward 1.
“We have two zoning requests that may come through next month,” she said. “I’m sure you’ve been following the news about the marijuana dispensary, that may come to be an issue. So it may or may not come before us, we’re not sure.”
The commission is tentatively planning to hold a specially called meeting before the April 18 City Council meeting, starting at 4:30 p.m.
Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or [email protected]