Chaffee committee votes on plan to settle land use dispute in historic area

by Tina Alvey Dale (tdale@talkbusiness.net) 558 views 

The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority Real Estate Review Committee agreed Tuesday (April 16) to exchange property with property owner Carroll King, a move that could end disputes between property owners in the historic warehouse district of Chaffee Crossing.

The committee approved a recommendation to exchange property with CBC Construction & Development LLC, owned by Carroll King, for property at the far east end of Chaffee Crossing, abutting Fort Chaffee. The FCRA board of directors, scheduled to meet at 3:30 p.m. Thursday (April 18), must approve the plan.

King purchased Buildings 310, 311, 312, and 1.07 acres at 7704, 7708 and 7714 Fort Chaffee Blvd., for use as warehouse, office and storage space on Nov. 16, 2017, according to the property sold section of the FCRA website. Earlier this year, King attempted to have plans approved by the city’s planning and zoning department for the buildings to be used as industrial warehouses. The area where the warehouses are located is now deemed as the Warehouse District. It is zoned “Mixed Use: Historical Area” and was conceived as a walk-and-shop tourist draw in the Chaffee Crossing master plan. In order to allow industrial warehouses in the area, city planners said FCRA had to change the land use to “Mixed Use: Industrial/Office.”

A change in the land use was broached at the February meeting of the committee but was tabled in hopes of alternatives to changing the land use could be found.

Business owners in the same area objected to changing the land use in the area — bounded by Darby Avenue/Taylor Avenue, Roberts Boulevard and Terry Street, saying they were against additional warehouses in the area. They contend the change would harm the historic integrity of the area and not allow it to be a walking, shopping, dining, tourist-drawing and business area.

A meeting was held March 19 between the real estate committee and interested parties to discuss alternatives to changing the land use. According to a memo drafted April 15 by FCRA and included in the package for Tuesday’s meeting, that meeting ended with four proposals on the table.

• CBC Construction & Development would sell its three warehouses and look for alternate space;
• Establish a form-based code for the area, which could take approximately one year;
• Seek conditional use zoning with a reversion back to the historic area land use upon sale; and
• Change the land use so current owners’ properties are conforming

“Since this meeting, FCRA spoke to Carroll King with CBC about a potential exchange, and he was agreeable with the proposal,” the memo said.

Details of the exchange include that CBC conveys to FCRA buildings 310, 311 and 312 with 1.07 acres in their current condition with improvements. Each building is approximately 9,045 square feet. FCRA would, in turn, convey to CBC building 2033, 2034 and 2036 with approximately five acres. Two of the buildings are 8,183 square feet. The other is 9,013 square feet.

In the proposed exchange, FCRA will pay for a boundary survey of the property to be conveyed to CBC and will pay all closing costs. CBC will have one year to vacate building 311, and FCRA will have 30 days to vacate building 2034. The other buildings are vacant. FCRA also will grant access easement on Mahogany and Wintergreen Avenues to the property being conveyed, the memo stated.

The committee voted unanimously to recommend the exchange to the FCRA Board of Directors for approval.

Though this exchange will solve the issue for King, other property owners in the historic warehouse area needed the change in land use because their property also does not fit within the standing land use. Those property owners requested land use changes at Tuesday’s committee meeting.

Beam Properties requested a change to mixed use: industrial/office for buildings 302 and 304 in the area, and Blake Properties requested the same change for building 301 and property bound by Terry Street, Darby Avenue, Ellis Street and Roberts Boulevard. Both properties are used for warehouses and needed the change in order to begin property improvements. Beam Properties said they wanted to add a bathroom to one of the warehouses, so it could be rented to a third party.

Objections were raised by Nathan Mendenhall, an attorney representing property owners in the area, against a land use change. He repeated objections raised when a land use change was suggested for CBC Construction & Development.

He asked the board members if they were making the exchange with King in order to right a wrong that occurred when King was sold the property with the understanding he could use it for industrial warehouses, even though doing so would not conform with the master plan hoping to show that changing the land use for other property owners would go against that correction, he said. However, when asked the reason for the exchange, board member Don Keesee said the exchange was made because King asked FCRA for an exchange.

“The public should know, including potential investors, that the ‘walk, shop’ vision with restaurants and clothing stores is a high-risk investment when you look at the possibility the FCRA can change a neighbor’s land use without you being able to stop it. It’s high-risk when you can’t rely on the comprehensive plan,” Mendenhall said after Tuesday’s meeting.

Despite objections, the committee voted unanimously to recommend to the full board changing the land use on the requested parcels. Keesee told Talk Business & Politics the board was recommending changes just for these two landowners to allow them to have mixed-use, industrial use in order to allow them to continue what they had been doing for years.

“This is what the property has been for 25 years,” Keesee said.

However, according to the FCRA website, Beam Properties purchased building 302 on Aug. 17, 2017, and building 304 on March 16, 207. Blake Properties purchased building 301 on Feb. 16, 2017.

“All of their contracts say FCRA provided and disclosed to each buyer the ‘Chaffee Crossing Historic Area Plan’ (walk/shop vision stated therein) and the ‘Master Development Guidelines.’ Each one also has the following contradictory statement that buyer’s proposed use complies w/ Master Plan … but also that the buyer is acquiring the property as ‘warehouse storage,’… which is, and has been acknowledged by prior FCRA real estate review committee chair Galen Hunter (in the meeting March 19), as being a nonconforming use. Wally Bailey of the City Planning Committee also acknowledged the warehouse usage is nonconforming as to the Master Plan when CBC (Construction) sought a PZD zoning for his three buildings, which he needed before the city would issue him work permits,” Mendenhall wrote in an email to Talk Business & Politics following the meeting.

If the land use is changed to industrial, either property owner could sell their property, which could then be used for industrial use that might not be a warehouse.

“I don’t care that there are a couple of warehouses,” said Randy DeCanter, owner of Old Fort Furniture in the historic warehouse district. “I care about the land use change to industrial. Since 2016, we were sold on the warehouse district vision. That’s what we bought into. You can’t have that in an industrial park.”

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