Chaffee Authority hears concerns about land use, need for ‘walkable’ historic area

by Tina Alvey Dale (tdale@talkbusiness.net) 513 views 

The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority real estate committee tabled discussion on a possible land use change and revision to the historic area plan following voiced concerns by many business owners in the historic area of Chaffee Crossing.

The committee met Monday (March 11) to discuss changing the area bounded by Darby Avenue, Taylor Avenue, Roberts Boulevard and Terry Street from mixed use: historic use to industrial/office. They were also to discuss revision to the historic area plan. A proposal would change the area south of Darby Avenue in the historic area with the area north of Darby remaining as it is.

The revisions to the plan would be needed to accommodate property development by Carroll King. The change was broached at the February meeting of the committee but was tabled in hopes alternatives to changing the land use could be found. King needs the change in order to use his property for industrial warehouses. The change was also suggested in order to make other existing business owners whose property does not fit within the standing land use.

However, many other business owners in the area have concerns about additional warehouse and about changing the land use to industrial use. Fort Smith Attorney Nathan Mendenhall, representing a number of business owners in the affected area, said there were definitely objections to the change.

“I thought we agreed in February, to have a meeting, a mediation of sorts, about this. I thought that’s what today was going to be, only to find out Friday, this is a meeting to make a decision on this change,” Mendenhall said.

The committee would only be able to decide on what recommendation to make the FCRA Board of Directors. The committee in itself is not able to make changes to the land use or the historic plan. The Fort Smith Planning Commission would have to approve King’s final zoning request but asked FCRA adapt the land use before they considered it since the industrial request would not fit with the current land use.

“I think we need to put a stop to moving more warehouse out here. I bought into this plan. A walkable, shopable, tourist area, when I bought property out here,” said Quentin Willard with Old Fort Brewing. “There are a lot of people working to make that happen with breweries, wineries, restaurants and shops.”

Scott Archer, principal engineer at HSA Engineering Consulting Services and a Fort Smith businessman, said there had to be a way to grandfather in those who have property that is not compliant with the land use in the historic area and to work with King to make his property plans work without hurting other business trying to keep the area with the current plan.

“We are business owners, but more importantly we are neighbors. I would like to see us have the chance to work as neighbors on this,” Archer said.

The real estate committee voted to table any discussions on the changes until there could be a series of meetings with the real estate committee, attorneys, a representative from the city of Fort Smith, King and other impacted persons if needed.

“I think this is a favorable result as a community goes,” Mendenhall said. “Obviously there are a lot of high emotions. Everyone is not going to walk away perfectly happy. Hopefully we will all walk away less unhappy.”

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