The Crossett City Council reluctantly — taking two tries — voted Monday to grant a zoning change that will allow a restaurant to open in a residential neighborhood.
Once the measure passed unanimously, however, council members expressed eagerness to see a new business open in Crossett and wished businessman Chester Huntsman godspeed in getting his project operating.
The matter, the re-zoning of 202 and 204 Beech Street from “residential” to “neighborhood commercial,” was presented to the Crossett Planning Commission earlier in the year, but because the commission had previously taken a stance that it would not spot zone — or rezone only one or two lots at a time — the commission suggested expanding the rezoning to take in the full 200 blocks of Beech, Elm and Cedar streets.
That suggestion was met at public hearing with significant criticism by residents in the neighborhood and surrounding area, who said such a move would tank the potential resale value of their heretofore residential property and potentially keep them from rebuilding their homes should a catastrophic event such as a fire happen.
The commission ultimately tabled the plan, and commission chair Doug Webb said Monday the commission was “punting” a decision to spot zone the property to the city council.
“It was probably a bad idea to support rezoning (the area) all the way to Third (Avenue),” Webb said. “There were some things I didn’t know, that I found about about the neighbors, that I found out since then.”
Huntsman told the council he plans to remodel the house at 202 Beech St., a 1919-vintage structure, and renovate it into a kind of “New Orleans, juke-joint feel.”
“The walls are all bead board, tongue-in-groove construction — it’s beautiful,” he said. “We want it to be a crown for this area.”
Huntsman said some wood from the house at 204 Beech Street would be salvaged, but it would be taken down and a parking lot would be built in its place.