Tense moments at Thursday’s City Council meeting


At a meeting that was, at times, tense, the Bryant City Council made decisions affecting individuals and neighborhoods in the community.

The regular monthly meeting for the Council began as usual at around 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12, with approvals passed for past meeting minutes and financial reports. After this normal order of business, Mayor Larry Mitchell asked if there were any public comments, which he does every month. The difference this month was the number of citizens and representatives of citizens that came forward to speak.[more]

The first person to come forward was Rae Ann Fields, executive director of the Bryant Chamber of Commerce. She declared her support for two projects that were being considered by the council. She said she supported a road from Raymar Road to the airport. She said she did not have a specific route in mind, but felt it would be in the best interest of economic development in the city to have such a road.

She also declared support for a project to be discussed later in the meeting involving a new apartment complex on Reynolds Road.

“The Chamber feels there is a need for apartments in Bryant,” said Fields.

The next speaker was Chris Parker, an attorney from a law firm in Little Rock. He said he was hired by a group of citizens concerned about the project on Raymar Road, south to the airport. He expressed concern about changes made in the scope of work statement, which was on the evening’s agenda to be approved.

He pointed out a reference to public hearings was changed to public meetings, which he said would result in a less formal public involvement. He said the original scope stated that verbatim transcripts would be taken from citizens who wished to record their statements. He said that statement had been removed in the revised edition.

“I think it is a real mistake, and I’m afraid you are shutting down public involvement by taking that out of the scope of work,” stated Parker.

He mentioned another phrase that had been taken out of the original that declared the road chosen would be the one that was the path of least resistance. He said he was concerned that taking out such phrases signaled a lack of willingness to listen to the public.

“If this process is not to really consider alternatives, but to simply rubber stamp things that have been on the map since August, and it’s not really interested in public involvement, you will meet the path of maximum resistance from these folks,” warned Parker.

This issue was addressed further later in the meeting.

The next speaker was Jeremiah Oltmans, who stated he wished to clarify what kind of apartments he was making plans to build on Reynolds Road. He said the apartments were meant to be executive apartments with granite countertops, vaulted ceilings and landscaping. He gave examples of people who would like to live in Bryant, but could not because of a lack of nicer apartments. He also addressed concerns about traffic. He said the traffic would not be a problem with the small complex he was proposing. He also said he had changed the back gate going to Evans Loop to a service vehicle entrance only so traffic would not be added to that neighborhood.

Oltmans also said he was planning to use local labor and supplies whenever possible. He said he had met with the Planning Committee and that they were recommending the project go forward. He addressed other concerns such as property value for the surrounding area. He said there was not a project like this in Saline County.

“I hope you vote to look at the community as a whole. With any project there is always going to be a little apprehension, resistance. As a whole it is actually going to satisfy a lot of needs out there.”

Next, Jason Stewart, an attorney from Little Rock, gave his opinion about Oltman’s apartments. Stewart supported the idea of the apartments and stated a growing need for transitional and executive housing for corporate executives who might need to move into the area quickly as they establish a business. Stewart said this type of housing would be an important item on a checklist of corporations looking at Bryant as a possible area to build a business.

Carolyn Izard of Todd Lane, a street off of Evans Loop, spoke out against the apartments, stating growing traffic problems in the area. She said, in the afternoon after school is out, it is sometimes difficult to get to her home.

“Unless you live over there, you have no idea what it’s like,” said Izard.

She stated further concerns that the apartments would only add to the problem. She also disagreed with the number of parking spaces planned for the complex. She said there were only 33 spots planned for a 22 unit complex.

Izard also did not see the need for the apartments. She said the Hurricane Creek apartments were nice. She said there were other apartments in town already.

“I’m not against apartments. I’m just against apartments in this spot,” said Izard.

Marilyn Chrisman, also of Todd Lane spoke next. She also was opposed to the apartment complex.

“This is not a place for an apartment building,” said Chrisman. “This will put traffic galore.”

She said she believed the residents of the proposed apartments would use the back gate onto Evans Loop even if they were only supposed to use the front gate. She also stated strongly that she believed the apartments would have a negative impact on the value of her home.

“It will devalue the property. I don’t care what the big shots say. It will devalue the property. We’ll end up with another Southwest Little Rock with section 8 housing out there with these apartments,” stated Chrisman.

Angie Thennes of Benton came forward to speak. She said she works in Little Rock but doesn’t want to live there. She said she had spoken to Oltmans about the type of amenities she would desire in an apartment. She said she didn’t want to maintain a property and wanted to live in an apartment in Bryant but no current apartments had what she was looking for.

Oltmans asked to be recognized to clarify the issue of the back gate. He stated it would be a service entrance only and residents would not have a key to it.

June Claypool of Neil Street came forward to briefly state her opposition to the apartment complex.

John Eggers of Alcoa and Highway 5 spoke next in favor of the apartments. He said there are currently no choices like this in Bryant.

Randy Coger of Neal Street spoke out in opposition of the apartments. He spoke of the quality of life of the area.

“Let’s keep the quality of life up in Bryant. I’ve lived in Bryant for 27 years. I like it here, but if the quality of life goes down, a lot of people are going to be leaving,” warned Coger.

Later in the meeting, LaVenia Jones of the Bryant Planning Commission spoke to the board concerning the rezoning of the area in which the apartments were proposed to be placed. She said the commission had worked with Oltmans since May and had gone through all the normal procedures for projects similar to this. Council members asked Jones some questions about the project and the area to be rezoned.

The motion was made to vote on the first reading of the ordinance and seconded. When the mayor asked if there was any discussion, Alderman Ed Collins spoke.

“For the record,” said Collins, “The past three or four days, I have been inundated with lack of support for this project. When citizens at this volume approach me as a representative on the council, I have to take their consideration weighed heavily here. I welcome any kind of revitalization of the southern part of Bryant. The way it was addressed to me in several cases is not that the citizens don’t want an apartment complex or see the need for it, it’s that that community can not have that kind of business or structure at this present time. The comments I’ve had over the last few days have been discouraging to supporting this project. I’m for growth, not quite sure at this current time it may be right.”

After some more discussion, the roll was called for the vote. The council voted against the rezoning with a vote of four against and three for the ordinance.

When the time came to vote on the approval of the scope of work for Jacobs Engineering, the council held a brief recess to correct the wording of most concern to Parker. Wording was added back into the scope document to reflect two types of public meetings, one more formal and one less formal with an option to make official statements part of public record.

After the wording was changed, the scope was approved with a vote of five for and two against.

After the vote, Mayor Larry Mitchell shared an e-mail with all those in attendance. The e-mail had been sent to a council member. Mitchell read the e-mail after omitting all names mentioned. The note made the intended recipient aware of a meeting to be held at 5:15 p.m. on the afternoon prior to the council meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to meet with an attorney. It was to be sent to certain council members, but not all.

Quoting from the note, Mitchell read, “I will sure ask that this be kept as confidential as you can. I would like for the rest of the council not to know he [attorney] is coming or that we are even going to be there. We would like for that to be a surprise.”

The e-mail went on to discuss part of the Jacobs scope of work and a petition they planned to pass around with the purpose of having elected officials go through an introductory period.

Mitchell was visibly upset by the e-mail and stated, “If you will respect me, I will respect you.”

In other business, an ordinance was passed to authorize a promissory note to provide short term financing for the purchase of sewer equipment.

Richard Penn gave an update on the progress of the stormwater management project and Gary Hollis presented a financial update.

An ordinance to provide for the City of Bryant’s award and recognition programs was defeated with a vote of 4 to 3.

Approval for accepting a bid for phase 2 of the street department’s overlay project was passed.

Ordinances were also passed to authorize online credit card payments for water and wastewater bills and to establish annual salaries for elected officials for JESAP purposes.


  1. Tom Cockerham

    I live in the neighborhood and I do not personally see a problem with the executive apartments especially since the residents cannot enter or exit on Evan’ Loop

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