story by Kim Souza
Fayetteville voters chose to stay with Mayor Lioneld Jordan for another four years, instead of returning to challenger and former Mayor Dan Coody, who preceded Jordan’s first term.
Benton County voters overwhelmingly approved of countywide retail alcohol sales, in an effort to keep dollars from flowing north and south where off-premise alcohol is sold. This bold change will wipe away nearly 70 years of ‘dry’ history.
Springdale voters decided to usher in Sunday off-premise alcohol sales and Bella Vista residents handily repealed the commercial rezoning ordinance that has divided the city over the past few months.
The Fayetteville Mayor’s race was over fairly early as incumbent Lioneld Jordan jumped out to large lead with the early counts. By 9:45 p.m. Coody conceded the race and Jordan accepted long before the electronic ballot results were released and the paper votes were tallied.
Washington County Election Commissioners showed Jordan amassed 17,068 votes (63%) to Coody’s 10,172 (37%), with more than 97% of the ballots counted at 1:33 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Four years ago these two candidates faced off in a tight race, which required a run-off before Jordan garnered 57% of the votes to unseat Coody who had served as mayor from 2001 through 2008.
Jordan served as Alderman for Ward 4 on the Fayetteville City Council for the two terms that Coody served as mayor.
Jordan thanked his challenger for well-run campaign about issues that do matter. He said he’s grateful the citizens want to get back to work on several issues he planned to tackle in this next term.
“We have a lot yet to do, with the parking deck downtown, a $20 million expansion to the Walton Arts Center and work with business expansion. We have committed to bring 2,000 more jobs to the city in the next four years. And I look forward to our work with the City of Fort Smith and port waterways that will benefit both regions,” Jordan said.
In his first term, Jordan said he was able to constrain spending and trim $3.5 million out of the budget over three years, which has allowed a nice reserve to build.
“We are taking a balanced budget to the council this year and will continue keep spending in check,” he said.
Coody said he got in the race because the city was going “the wrong direction.” But he congratulated the Mayor on Tuesday and said Fayetteville was his home and he would continue to support civic interests.
Voters in Benton County decided to join 35 other Arkansas counties where package alcohol is sold, according to the unofficial final counted votes by the Benton County Election Commission early Wednesday morning (Nov. 7)
Wet supporters tallied 42,978 votes (66%), while the opposition favoring the status quo had 22,239 (34%) of the votes cast.
Spending by the opponents was equally lopsided as Keep Dollars in Benton County spent $660,657 toward the effort, while the opposition group mustered just $1,265 according to records on file with Arkansas Ethics Commission.
Keep Dollars in Benton County was spearheaded by Tom and Steuart Walton – grandsons to Wal-Mart founders Helen and Sam Walton – who together donated more than a half million dollars toward this issue. Much of the money was spent to obtain more than 43,000 necessary signatures to get the issue before the voters.
Citizens United to Preserve Benton County formed in late September and managed to garner support from a few local churches, according to spokesman John Gore.
A study conducted by the University of Arkansas estimates retail alcohol sales would bring $33 million into the county each year – in both revenue and jobs created. Some $14 million is an estimated one-time economic impact and the possibility of up to 140 jobs were noted in the study.
There is room for up to 55 liquor stores in the county, according the Alcohol Beverage Control division.
Marshall Ney, spokesman for Keep Dollars in Benton County, said the petition effort was essentially a trial run for the election. He said the Walton grandsons were able to remove the barrier of getting the issue before the voters, who spoke out loud and clear on what they want.
“The overwhelming cost and task of gathering more than 40,000 signatures was a barrier, or it would have likely been on the ballot before now,” Ney said.
This was a close contest, but the final numbers indicate Springdale residents approved the Sunday off-premise alcohol sales. The votes stood at 6,097 (54%) of residents for the issue, while 5,291(46%) voted in opposition.
Lost revenue from sales at the Arkansas/Missouri line on the Sabbath and the risk of neighboring Benton County approving a “wet” vote were all the incentive needed to get the proposal in front of Springdale voters.
Liquor stores, convenience, drug and grocery stores with off-premise alcohol licenses from the state will be able to sell not only beer and wine but also hard liquor on Sunday.
Jim Phillips, spokesman for the Springdale Liquor Association supported this issue because of the potential loss of revenue from a now “wet” neighboring Benton County.
Phillips says the new law will give Springdale an advantage and keep patrons from driving to Oklahoma or Missouri to purchase alcohol on Sunday.
Michael Langley, director of the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration, says Sunday alcohol sales are not widespread practice across the state.
BELLA VISTA REZONE
Rezoning efforts by the Bella Vista City Council have met with opposition from the moment the topic was first discussed back in May, so it’s no surprise a majority coalition favors a repeal of those efforts.
When the final ballots were tallied 5,907 (55%) voted to repeal Ordinance 2012 10, while 4,921 (45%) cast votes in support of the commercial rezoning ordinance, once eyed by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Citizens for Responsible Development worked to get 4,000 signatures to bring the referendum measure before the voters, because they felt their concerns were ignored by both the local planning commission and the city council.
The city council rezoned 6.44 acres of residential property to a large-scale commercial site which granted property owner Betty Garcia’s request. Garcia had a contract to sell the property to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. contingent on the rezoning and a traffic light at the intersection of Oldham Drive and U.S. 71.
The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department denied the city’s request for a traffic light at the site last month. Wal-Mart Stores officially bowed out of the deal Monday (Nov. 5) saying it would likely look for another location because the traffic light was paramount to it building a store on the proposed site.
Citizen’s spokesman Tony LiCausi said the group is ready to sit down and share their vision and openly discuss other options for the property now that Wal-Mart has backed away and the rezoning has been repealed.