A proposed new Lindsey development in northwest Fayetteville couldn’t clear the first hurdle in the process when the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board tabled its decision on how much land the project needs to donate for park land. It’s the first step in the development review process for large residential projects.
JEL Land Acquisition LLC is a company registered to Jim Lindsey of Lindsey Management Co. and is under contract to purchase Razorback Park Golf Club and proposes to build 668 apartment units and 233 single-family houses on the 125-acre tract.
The job of the Parks and Recreation board is to determine how much land should be reserved for park land within the development or if the city will accept cash in lieu of land donation, said Ritchie Lamb, the board’s chairman. The park land donation program was adopted in 1981.
The city parks staff has recommended the project donate eight acres on the north side of Clabber Creek and payment of $265,000 in lieu of land. The total complex as planned would require a donation of 14.7 acres or an in lieu of payment of $588,440. The payment is calculated on the number of front doors in the project, according to city officials.
More than 50 neighbors who live around the golf course crowded into the meeting room at City Hall on Monday (June 1). Most were there to voice opposition to the project, although Lamb told them their comments were premature given the parameters of the parks board.
Brian Sorensen, president of the Prairie View Acres Property Owners Association, voiced the general concerns of most of the group, citing density and traffic issues that would be created by 2,000 to 3,000 residents living in the development. Calling the area an “underserved side of town,” Sorensen said, “The developer should do more, not less, with green space. It would be in error to take money in lieu of land.”
Others expressed concern about flooding issues along Clabber Creek. And, still more voiced concerns about where the children would attend school. The property is in the Holcomb Elementary School attendance zone but the school has been at capacity for the last several years.
The golf course is bordered on the east by Deane Solomon Road and on the south by Vanike Drive. The Fayetteville School District owns about 100 acres north of the golf course and Vanike Drive, purchased several years as a potential site for a second high school. The district has no immediate plans to build another school in the northwest quadrant of the district.
Lamb and others on the board said the land along the creek, as recommended by the parks staff, is necessary to connect east and west trail systems in the area and follows the Trail Master Plan which has been in effect for at least 15 years.
“It’s a good deal for the city because it provides connectivity,” said Connie Edmonstron, parks and recreation director.
The action was tabled to allow project engineers and city staff to re-develop the recommendation to put more land in the park donation at the point on the property line where the creek passes under Deane Solomon Road. Eric Heller, an engineer with Blew and Associates, said the developers were willing to donate as much as 17 acres along the creek. However the city only asked for eight acres to connect the trails.
Lamb said the board may hold a special meeting later in June to hear a compromise resolution that would meet The park donation must be completed before the project can begin to be reviewed by planning and zoning officials.
Kim Fugitt, a representative of the Lindsey Company, didn’t expect such a large crowd to attend the meeting.
“It could be foreshadowing,” he said.
He told the group that the developers plan to hold a series of public meetings in the next few months to hear public comment from neighbors of the project. Plans for the project have not fully developed, Fugitt said. It will feature a private pool, clubhouse and fitness center for residents and a nine-hole foot golf course that will be open to the public. Foot golf is played with a soccer ball kicked into larger holes.
The purchase is not expected to be finalized until October. The project will take two years to build but it could be three to five years before construction begins, Fugitt said.
Fugitt said Lindsey recently completed a similar project in Benton, Ark., built on a former golf course. That development has about 1,000 living units on about 200 acres.
Lindsey has developed 22 complexes in Northwest Arkansas since 1986, some with golf courses. The largest complex to date is The Links of Fayetteville with 604 units built in 2008. The Razorback project would be the largest with 921 apartments and homes.
The popularity of golf appears to be waning across the country. Ron Caviness, who has owned the golf course since 2007, said he listed it for sale in June because of declining revenue. The National Golf Foundation reported in 2014 that more golf courses closed than opened in the U.S. for the eighth straight year. Another report from Sageworks, a financial information company, said average profit margins for privately owned courses and country clubs has been in the red for several years.