Residents of the densely-populated Lakeland Drive peninsula, annexed by the city in 2018, and the new owners of Shorecrest Lake Cottages, Roxanne and Gilbert Garrett, agree that the area has a crime problem. However, they disagree on how to fix it.
As per a report, the Garretts proposed to raze and remove more than 30 dilapidated structures on the 4.2-acre property at 360 Lakeland Drive and convert it into a recreational vehicle (RV) park.
At Tuesday’s Hot Springs Board of Directors business meeting, over a dozen full- and part-time residents spoke against the proposal.
They argued that an RV park would continue to make the property a magnet for crime and add traffic to the already busy, narrow road that serves as the only access to the peninsula.
After more than three hours of testimony and debate, the board voted 6-1 to reject the planning commission and planning and development department’s recommendation to approve changes to the property’s site plan and list of uses.
The property’s planned development zoning requires board approval for any changes to its site plan or list of uses.
Roxanne Garrett told the board, “We’ll reopen Shorecrest and just hope that its future turns out better than its past,” describing the plan for the property if the board rejected the RV park proposal. She said she and her husband intended to continue operating the cottages when they bought the property.
“What we didn’t know at that time is that the property had an atrocious reputation,” Garrett noted, adding that the police had been called more than 90 times in the last two years. “The people who live there were not a good group. It’s the reputation that keeps these people coming back and back.”
Garrett stated that the cabins generated income and would keep producing cash flow. “Shorecrest is very profitable just like it is,” she told the board. “The 31 structures may attract a bad element; however, that element pays their rent. This change is not being done to increase the property’s income. The only reason we started this was to address the city’s concern about the high crime rate on the property.” Gilbert Garrett said an RV park was “our best effort” to reduce crime. “We were going to buy the property on the income it made and be happy with it, but it’s hard to be happy with something that’s as evil as that place is,” he told the board. “There’s true evil out there.”
Residents living near the property supported the Garretts’ proposal, hoping an RV park would attract a better clientele.
The owner of a nearby condominium unit said RV park guests would use amenities at his complex, suggesting that the Garretts’ proposal could be a cover for a mobile home park. “We’ve had that problem over the years with people coming into our complex and using our swimming pool and our hot tub, and that’s just going to get worse,” he said. “At first, there might be some good people living there, but eventually, there’s going to be a lot of Cousin Eddies.”
Several directors noted that the city code is mostly silent on RV parks, with no clear definition differentiating them from mobile home parks.
District 4 Director Dudley Webb asked about the proposal’s compliance with the preservation plan required for planned developments, which discourages “excessive site clearing of topsoil, trees, and natural features.”