Chaffee Authority has contributed $16.1 million to Fort Smith infrastructure projects, land assessments at $7 million

by Aric Mitchell ( 515 views 

Chaffee Crossing developments have resulted in more than $16.1 million of contributions to Fort Smith from the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA), according to city data provided to Talk Business & Politics by Mayor Sandy Sanders.

The breakdown includes $4.991 million in road construction, $7.003 million in water and sewer, and $63,000 for electrical work. Additionally, the FCRA has committed $1.5 million for new trails and $2 million for the Highway 255 relocation project. The trust also has a $600,000 grant pending for sewer work in the Crossing’s historic district. Furthermore, and in addition to the $16.1 million, property assessments over a six-year period are estimated to be close to $7 million in tax value at the county level.

“Based off assessed values we had listed with the appropriate millage rate for each school district applied to them, the overall tax dollars generated by the properties at Chaffee Crossing … equals $6,916,236,” said Sebastian County Tax Assessor Zach Johnson. “This number reflects the tax amounts that would have been generated by our values, and doesn’t mean they were actually paid or not. This is an accumulative total spanning the tax years 2011-2017 (YTD).”

Johnson’s figures go back to only 2011 because “that is as far back as our system would let me go due to a conversion at the end of 2010.” The development has been under FCRA management since the trust was established in 1997 as a result of the federal Base Realignment and Closures (BRAC) program that set aside 7,000 acres of 72,000 from the decommissioned Fort Chaffee. The remaining 65,000 acres are leased to the Arkansas Army National Guard for training.

According to Sanders, and confirmed through FCRA Executive Director Ivy Owen, there has been an estimated $1.5 billion in public and private investments, much of which has occurred inside Fort Smith’s city limits, and “development activity has created returns from real estate and sales taxes, new homes and businesses, job creation, educational facilities, trails, and other amenities,” Sanders said.

Sanders reached out to Talk Business & Politics on Thursday (Aug. 10) in response to a report from a recent meeting of the streets, bridges, and drainage capital investments plan (CIP) advisory committee in which commissioners Robert Brown and David Armbruster suggested the FCRA should consider “putting the brakes” on its development efforts and sell land at higher price points to pay for needed infrastructure without as much use of city tax funds.

Talk Business & Politics submitted a request to Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken and City Finance Director Jennifer Walker inquiring how much the city has contributed to the Chaffee Crossing development in tax funds over the years, but had not received a response at the time of this post. A supplemental story will be forthcoming upon receipt of the available data, and will include reaction from Brown and Armbruster if they respond.

Sanders said the city “has made, and continues to make, wise decisions in our capital investment projects throughout” the city.

“Having a partner like FCRA has enabled us to do more without bearing the full cost of these projects to benefit all of the city,” Sanders said.

The CIP committee has invited Owen to appear at its Aug. 31 meeting, in part to address criticisms made at the previous meeting. When asked if he would be in attendance, Owen told Talk Business & Politics, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”