Room to Grow (EDITOR’S NOTE)

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 37 views 

In Benton County, the groundwork is being laid to potentially add a landing spot for a significant industrial development.

The Highfill Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. July 26 to discuss a major rezoning request by Springdale businessman-slash-developer Sam Mathias, who is seeking to rezone 1,085 acres from rural residential to light industrial. Mathias acquired the land last summer from Simmons Bank for $4.45 million.

An adjacent 80 acres, which Mathias also owns, will also be considered for rezoning, from rural residential to general industrial.

The acreage is just west of Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill. A preliminary zoning map refers to the area as “Commerce Park.”

This area has long been on the development radar, at one time as part of a 1,584-acre project called The Orchards.

That plan was on the table about a decade ago, when Highfill’s population was in the 550 range, and was a 20-year planned residential build-out. The Dallas-based developer said The Orchards could potentially raise the population of Highfill to more than 20,000.

The 2008 economic bust sent the venture south in a hurry, and the property eventually returned to the bank. Highfill’s population is still below 600.

There isn’t thought to be an immediate prospect for the land, but you can probably count the available 1,100-acre industrial tracts in this state on one hand. This is pretty significant.

The greater probability is the land is being rezoned to present opportunities for companies of various sizes a few years down the road.

Mike Harvey, chief operating officer of the Northwest Arkansas Council, said he is familiar with the property, and having it zoned industrial would be an added benefit to Benton County’s ability to recruit.

“I’m sure this thing would take a long time to unfold, but this is an obvious first step,” Harvey said.

“Eventually you’ll get some really good road access out there in a few years. At the end of the decade or so you’ll have a really marketable piece of property. I love the long-term potential.”