Mills Farm Re-zoning Approved; Residents Feel City Isn't Being Transparent

City divided over cattle farm planned for commercialization

ROGERS, AR - - People living in Rogers feel like they're being placed on the back-burner. New zoning requirements could soon allow 188 acres of prime real estate - right off I-49 - to be developed.

Now a family farm could become home to strip malls, restaurants, and apartment complexes.

A little over a month ago, discussion to zone the Mills Family Farm for commercial purposes was tabled at a Rogers Planning Commission meeting.

On Tuesday, the proposal was brought up again. This time, the zoning requirements were altered, and the planning commission approved it unanimously.

"It's absolutely classic commercial property," Bill Watkins, the Mills Family Attorney said.

There's a lot of people in Rogers that disagree with that statement about the Mills Family Farm.

"It feels like the rezoning could have been a good thing if it was handled in the right way," said Matt Kovach, a concerned citizen who lives in Rogers.

Between Springdale and Rogers, there's nearly 200-acres of green, and some people believe they weren't given proper notice of a meeting where its re-zoning was approved.

"When we all asked the city council, how do we know when and where it will be? They said, look at our planning commission website, it will be posted there. Well it didn't get posted on the website, it got left off,"  Kovach said.

They say the agenda was buried on the city's website, and that kept them from attending Tuesday's session.

"That sits wrongly with us. If there was going to be a ruling against our beliefs, that's fine. But we don't feel we got a fair notification," Kovach said.

The Rogers Planning Commission, who turned down our request for an on-camera interview, told us they complied with all legal requirements regarding public notice. The agenda was posted on their website six days in advance of the meeting.

Bill Watkins, the attorney for the Mills Family, says the planning commission doesn't have an obligation to allow the public to speak after the initial hearing.

"At some point, there are always going to be some people that want us to go away. We can't do that," Watkins said.

The property is owned by three brothers. They have the right to do whatever they want with their land. But the public outcry left them feeling like they have targets on their backs in the city their family has lived in for years.

"He's a bit disappointed. He's been a lifetime Rogers resident and a member of the business community,"  Watkins said of one of his clients.

Whether there is blame to be passed around or not, some people still feel betrayed.

"The residents are the city, and the planning commissions should be representing the residents in their best interests," Kovach said.

The Rogers Planning Committee says their meetings are held the first and third Tuesday of every month and that its doors are always open to the public. The newly approved zoning requirements will go before Rogers City Council for final approval on Tuesday.

ROGERS PLANNING COMMISSION FULL STATEMENT

"The City of Rogers has complied with all legal requirements regarding public notice. The Planning Commission Agenda and accompanying items were posted on our website from April 12 to April 19th. Staff responded to requests regarding where to find meeting information, and are always willing to help citizens. Although it was not required, The Planning Commission re-opened public comment at Tuesday night's meeting, where citizens were again able to voice their concerns. Planning Commission meetings are held on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month, and the doors are always open to the public"


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