Members of the Van Buren City Council were encouraged Monday night by Mayor Bob Freeman to attend an Aug. 23 meeting on the proposed intermodal port on the Arkansas River.

John Vickerman of Vickerman and Associates in Williamsburg, Va., will provide an update on ongoing data gathering for a packet being prepared for the inland port and intermodal project at the Port of Van Buren.

Vickerman and Associates was hired earlier this year by the Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority to prepare requests for expression of interest and solicitation for an intermodal port. The contract, which was funded with about $200,000, includes data collection, trade date procurement, a targeted market assessment and a conceptual terminal development plan.

Funding for the contract with Vickerman was provided by the cities of Fort Smith and Van Buren, Crawford County, Sebastian County and the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority.

State Rep. Mat Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, who serves as executive director of the Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority, said Western Arkansas is poised to benefit from the increased river freight movements from the Port of New Orleans and the newly expanded Panama Canal.

“This region is situated in the heartland of America with two major interstate highways, two Class 1 railroads, a navigable waterway and a regional airport,” Pitsch said. “This inland port and intermodal project will serve the confluence of transportation modes available in Arkansas.”

The council unanimously voted to allow retail pharmacies to locate in industrial zones without obtaining conditional use permits.

Freeman said the change was recommended by the planning commission following a July 11 hearing on the proposed amendment.

Freeman said the change will mean retail pharmacies in industrial zones will no longer have to come to the planning commission on a yearly basis to have conditional use permits renewed.

Aldermen voted 5-0 to amend a 1989 ordinance to abandon a portion of an alley and parts of three streets in the Mountain View Addition.

Planning Director Joe Hurst said the ordinance incorrectly described the location of the property to be abandoned.

“We took it to the planning commission,” Hurst said. “We’ve talked to utilities. We’ve talked to everyone just like we were going through the abandonment again just to confirm that this was correct.”

The corrected ordinances includes portions of Grand Avenue, Alta Vista Street and Walnut Street.

The council also reappointed Philip Bagby and Lynn Graham to the planning commission and appointed Mindy London to the advertising and promotion commission.