- Associated Press - Friday, May 8, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Little Rock Port Authority Board of Directors passed a resolution Friday encouraging appropriate land use and development on property beside its industrial park facilities.

The board’s unanimous vote in a special meeting comes as the deadline for public comment approaches on the Quapaw Tribe’s federal application to place 160 acres of land adjacent to the Little Rock Port Industrial Park into federal trust.

The trust application before the Bureau of Indian Affairs asks to remove the property from local jurisdiction and make it American Indian land, which would create a sovereign status for the owners.

The resolution says there are “potential issues and concerns for any non-industrial development” of land within and adjacent to port authority land.

City, county and state officials have expressed concerns that federal trust status would enable the tribe to build a casino on the property. Tribe officials said previously that it is unlikely they would build a casino unless Arkansas changes its gambling law.

Gambling currently is allowed only at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs and at Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis.

Little Rock Port Authority Executive Director Bryan Day said the Quapaw land is in the path of the only direction the $800 million industrial park could purchase property for significant expansion.

“If you want to come out here, purchase land and use it in a way that is consistent with our mission, with industrial development and job growth, then we’ll work with you,” Day said.

Day said the land-use resolution also says the port authority would protect and preserve any archeologically, culturally or historically significant finds made during possible expansion.

In an emailed statement Friday, Quapaw Chairman John Berrey said the tribe is pleased with the port authority board’s actions.

“We feel we have met all of their concerns and complied completely with their needs,” he wrote. “The process has been very positive and we appreciate that we’ve been able to come up with a mutually favorable outcome.”

Pulaski County officials will include the board’s resolution as part of the county’s comment on the federal trust proposal, which is due to the Bureau of Indian Affairs on May 13.

The Quapaw Tribe bought the land after finding graves dating back hundreds of years to when the tribe was in Arkansas.


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