Chaffee Authority boss has ‘no plans to retire yet,’ will request one-year extension

by Aric Mitchell (aric.mitchell@gmail.com) 356 views 

Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA) Executive Director Ivy Owen is ready to extend his contract for another year through the end of 2019.

Owen, responding to a question from Talk Business & Politics about his future with the FCRA, said he had “no plans to retire yet” though he understood “how you could get that idea.”

The FCRA convened for its final meeting of 2017 on Dec. 21 but adjourned without addressing contracts or pay increases. The move was not unusual considering it had not clarified those details for 2017 until last February, but at that time, the Board also had agreed to extend Owen’s contract an additional year to the end of 2018. Owen told Talk Business & Politics in 2014 he planned to stay aboard for another four years.

The Board also differed its usual procedure for Owen at the December meeting, opting then to do a performance evaluation in executive session instead of with its final contract/pay approvals. Lastly, it honored Owen for his 10 years of service to the trust, but rather than a farewell, Owen explained the Board “is waiting until we adopt our budget in January before they do any pay raises or my contract extension, which, by the way, will be another year.”

Owen officially took the reins of FCRA in 2008, and he has overseen the majority of Chaffee Crossing’s development, which today boasts around $1.5 billion in public and private investments and around 3,500 jobs. Under Owen’s tenure, Chaffee Crossing welcomed the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education (ACHE), which opened its inaugural college, the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine (ARCOM), to a class of 150 students in July 2017. It also announced a second college, the Arkansas College of Health Sciences (ARCHS), and plans for $21 million in additional development.

Land values have increased rapidly since the Base Realignment and Closures (BRAC) process deeded the land to the area in 1995. An appraisal shortly after Owen arrived on the property that is now Umarex classified the land as “farm land” and valued it at $2,500 per acre. Using that number, the entire development would have been worth around $17.5 million prior to developments.

However, in an August 2017 report, Sebastian County Assessor Zach Johnson showed assessed lands in the Chaffee Crossing boundaries from 2011-2017 had a tax value of $6.916 million. That figure is 20% of the land value, which would estimate growth from the aforementioned $17.5 million (for everything) to around $34.5 million just for the land FCRA placed back on tax rolls.

The trust has unloaded around 4,400 acres of the original 7,000, and while the remainder varies from month-to-month, FCRA estimates it has around 1,500 acres of marketable land remaining and more than 800 acres of unmarketable “wet lands.”

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