Commission denies new ‘indoor playground’

A conceptual drawing of a portion of The Clubhouse, a proposed indoor playground, which was denied by the Conway Planning Commission Monday night. SUBMITTED ART

A new indoor playground was rejected by the Conway Planning Commission while an older outdoor one by the same owners was given its stamp of approval during the commission’s final scheduled meeting of 2012.

The Clubhouse, a proposed indoor play area that needed a planned unit development amendment to set up shop in the Scherman Heights PUD at 575 Club Lane, was met with fierce resistance from two homeowners groups, the Windcrest Subdivision Homeowners and the Scherman Heights Homeowners. Their pleas to deny the request coupled with the commission’s own investigations persuaded the denial, which was 7-2. Mark Lewis and Anne Tucker voted against the denial.

Citing traffic and noise concerns, several residents of the two subdivisions voiced opposition to the proposed commercial recreational facility, which would have been started by the owners of Pediatrics Plus, a center for developmentally disabled children. The location of The Clubhouse would have been next to Pediatrics Plus on Lot 7D.

Ken Holder, who represented both groups of homeowners, said rezoning for the new facility would cause a “decline in the value of our homes. This is not appropriate use of the facility. This facility does not represent what it was originally built as.”

The Scherman Heights PUD is zoned mainly as quiet office, and commissioner Chris Steplock pointed out that while he thought the original idea of The Clubhouse was a “no brainer,” he voted to deny the request because of the possible location of the center.

“If we were rezoning this place from scratch, I think we wouldn’t consider anything other than quiet office, especially when considering the proximity to houses in the neighborhood,” Steplock said. “I think we need to be sympathetic to the neighbors in the area.”

The Clubhouse is proposed to be an indoor commercial recreational facility serving young children. Those bring the request said the place would be different in allowing children and parents to interact in a miniature city. No electronic games would be allowed, and no internal or external sound systems would be used.

Property owners of the Windcrest Subdivision also requested a PUD review of Pediatrics Plus, which was originally established in 2003. The main concern is an outdoor playground that bumps up directly to the back yard of neighbors in the Windcrest Subdivision.

The commission voted 6-3 to deny the review, although Jeff Allender, who voted against the motion to deny, pointed out that “in the 10 years that we have been granting PUDs, we have never had a review. I would think that we might want to at least check in from time to time to make sure the rules are being maintained.” Kimberly Gardner and Matthew Brown also voted against the motion to deny.

Those who chose to deny the request said they did so based on the information provided by Bryan Patrick of the Planning Department, who said that an outdoor playground is required as child care in an O-2 zoning. He also said other concerns such as green space and land use were being kept in compliance.

Holder asked the commission for the review, once again citing property values. He brought a petition signed by 144 residents, and he asked for the commission to consider what he believed to be other violations.

The commission also elected its officers for 2013. Jon Arms will serve as chairman with Jeff Allender as vice chairman and Lee Washington as secretary.

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