‘Town and Gown’ committee prioritizing issues

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 362 views 

The relationship between a flagship university and its host city is always going to have its ups and downs and the relationship between the City of Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas is no different.

An advisory committee formed in July 2012 is working to discuss mutual issues between the two entities. The Town and Gown Advisory Committee is a 21-member committee with representatives on the committee coming from University of Arkansas staff as appointed by Chancellor David Gearhart; City of Fayetteville staff appointed by Mayor Lioneld Jordan; a member of the Fayetteville City Council appointed by the Mayor; and members of the community who were appointed by the City Council after filing applications for service and going through the City Council  interview, nominating, and City Council selection process.

The group started meeting in October 2012 and has met several times since then. As the relationship is new, much of the work has been deciding how the committee will function, what it needs to discuss and how those needs will be prioritized.

“It’s our job to identify the problems, communicate the problems and offer potential solutions for solving the problems,” said Tommy Deweese, committee chairman.

Deweese emphasized that the committee is advisory only and the votes are to agree to recommend solutions to entities that have the authority to make the recommended changes.

One such change was the recent closing of parts of Dickson Street near the University during certain hours to reduce vehicle traffic in the high pedestrian area. Vice-chairman Diane Warren agreed about the committee’s mission and said that the committee so far has focused on communicating on the issues and prioritizing how they should be managed.

One task was to make the issues more manageable to research. The committee is divided into four committees, each with a specific area of focus. A few months ago, the committee as a whole discussed its top 10 concerns that face both the City of Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas. The four committees focus on:
• Master street plan and coordination
• Campus vicinity safety
• Enhancing communications among off-campus students, neighborhood residents and property owners
• University overlay district.

Divided within those committees is the top 10 priorities that the committee wants to handle first including:
• Master street planning and coordination including how to maximize Capital Improvement Projects and budgets, developing a process for designating and coordinating one-way streets, street parking, and other infrastructure elements.

• Enhancing communication with off-campus students, neighborhood residents and property owners regarding issues such as code education, property upkeep, off-campus landlord and tenant issues, and the issue of having too many unrelated people living in the same residence. A City of Fayetteville ordinance doesn’t allow more than three unrelated people to live in the same residence.

• Master street construction projects including Martin Luther King Road Enhancement, State Route 112 widening project, and core campus street enhancement projects.

• Campus vicinity safety including crosswalk installation and improvement, lighting and calming traffic in nearby neighborhoods.

• Communication and follow up regarding off-campus student incidents such as parties and altercations.

• Emergency services preparedness, coordination and planning.

• University Overlay District (the University’s master plan and how it interacts with the city’s master plan, especially focusing on transitions from established neighborhoods to campus).

• Additional fire company and fire station for replacing Station 2 at the UA.

• Signage and way-finding coordination between the city, University and all of Northwest Arkansas.

• Noise ordinance discussion including education and enforcement clarification.

Through the discussion at the committee’s March 25 meeting, members agreed that while they realize these issues will not be solved immediately, they are hopeful that the new committee will be able to make a difference.