In 2018, the Hillcrest Residents Association asked a respected, diverse group of experts including legal, architecture, development, real estate, neighborhood advocacy and historic preservation to review the current DOD after concerns of teardowns and rebuilds. After two years of thoughtful review, a list of changes and additions were brought forth. The HRA reviewed and voted to approve the recommendations with one dissenting board member. A concerned group came forward opposing aspects of the proposal. The HRA stopped moving forward and encouraged the DOD Committee to meet with the “Opposing” Ad Hoc Committee. They did, many times. Over the next two years, the HRA held 9 open public meetings*, 30+ monthly meetings, shared information through e-newsletters, website, social media, mailings, yard signs, and a local magazine, to ensure all voices were heard in the negotiations. The HRA even won a publicized award from Preserve Arkansas for Outstanding
Achievement in Preservation Advocacy for its Design Overlay District campaign. Last spring, the DOD Committee unanimously resubmitted final recommendations with changes agreed upon by the Ad Hoc Committee. The HRA passed the document to the city for review.
On February 20, 2023, the HRA board unanimously passed the final recommendations then submitted to the Planning Commission for review. The public meeting is set for Thursday, March 23rd.
Now to clarify some misinformation. A paid ad with a petition to oppose the current changes was posted on social media soon after the HRA vote. A small group of individuals began a coordinated campaign to circulate misinformation, make personal and professional attacks on HRA board members, posting photos of a director’s home, and misrepresenting HRA board members.
We are concerned for a paid petition created by Brandon Haubert from WH Law which was used to spread this misinformation and believe many residents signed the form under false pretenses. The petition can be seen here: www.whlawoffices.com/blog/hillcrest-is-great-keep-it-that-way.
A few examples:
“They act like they need to save Hillcrest, but there are already restrictions in place to keep it from needing to be saved. But they just keep pushing. In fact, at the first meeting I attended they wanted to limit all new construction to 1,500 sq. ft. You may think, “that does not apply to me,” but you have to read the definition of new construction.”
FALSE. There has never been any restriction limiting all build to less than 1,500 sq. ft. The recommendations have always been about Floor to Area Ratio (FAR).
“The HRA Board is not being transparent about what they are doing. I have tried to track the progress of this and they do not even keep the public notified in a transparent manner that the public should demand! The current regulations they propose are not even located on the page dedicated to this very project”
FALSE. The current and past proposals have been on our website for three years. Our site houses the following: The original DOD Recommendations from June 2020, Post-Hearing Comments from August 2020, Revised Changes from October 2021, Final DOD Recommendations from March 2022, and the letter we submitted to the city last month. https://www.hillcrestresidents.com/design-overlay-district
“I tried to get a copy of what the HRA submitted to the Planning Commission, but I was denied access to that information. I was forced to FOIA the information and I am currently waiting on it.”
To this day, the HRA has never received a request for any information from Brandon Haubert or the other individuals (one of which met with the DOD as part of the Ad Hoc group) protesting about our transparency. We have shared all information openly with the neighborhood. My contact information and the letter we sent to the city is on our website.
“From my understanding, a mailer will be sent out soon, there will be a public hearing in March, and the Planning Commission will vote on it in April. I believe that this will occur without most people in Hillcrest even being aware of what is happening in their neighborhood.”
Again, we have been in constant communication with the neighborhood through newsletters, social media posts, website updates, yard signs, flyers, and any other means available. Although a single mailing costs almost a third of our annual budget, we have also sent DOD info by mail.
“Here is what Hillcrest becomes: Buy a house – lose money. Have a kid – forced to move.”
The housing market in Hillcrest has always been strong and will continue to be strong. Ironically, Brandon Haubert disseminates this narrative while in the process of building an approximately 5,000 sq. ft. home in Hillcrest where an old house recently stood.
Other comments were untrue, but it is easy to see why the petition was misleading to residents, many who, I assume, signed without knowing the truth.
Over the last 5 years, the HRA has made every effort to bring the community into the discussion, gather a dedicated, passionate group of community leaders, and hammer out minor changes being presented to the city. One well-respected Hillcrest real estate developer, who originally opposed the changes, recently said, “When I helped with the existing DOD in 2008, the recession hit. It’s taken years to see if the DOD held up to its mission. Years later, these current changes make sense.”
The Hillcrest Residents Association is a simple volunteer board of people who love Hillcrest and want to see it thrive. We worked to create an open process with open communication. We appreciate the countless hours of meetings, calls and emails by a dedicated group of residents who put forth the recommendations. I am personally proud of our board; we showed up at meetings, followed the changes and worked to truly understand the policies and regulations.
For a comprehensive look at all DOD documents: https://www.hillcrestresidents.com/design-overlay-district
For an explanation of the recommended changes: https://www.hillcrestresidents.com/_files/ugd/a3fb98_516a14f3cfe346c2b710f8f1e00f581b.pdf
To share your position with the planning commission: https://www.littlerock.gov/business/planning-and-development/hillcrest-dod/
If you have additional questions or concerns, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The HRA Board of Directors continue to fully support the proposed recommendations.
Luke Kramer, President
Hillcrest Residents Association