The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority Board of Directors voted Thursday (April 18) to change land use in part of the “historic warehouse district” to industrial/office. The vote comes after weeks of sometimes heated discussion on how to rectify the issue of some properties used in non-conforming ways.
The board voted to change the area bounded by Darby Avenue, Taylor Avenue, Roberts Boulevard and Terry Street from mixed use: historic use to industrial/office. This will change the area south of Darby Avenue in the historic area but leave the area north of Darby as mixed use: historic.
CBC Construction & Development, Beam Properties and Blake Properties own property in the area that is operated as warehouse space, which did not conform to the land use.
At the meeting, the board also agreed to switch properties with CBC Construction & Development although the change in land use would nullify the need for the exchange. That exchange would include CBC conveying 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.
Also as part of the 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.
Several objections were raised regarding the change in land use by business owners in the area who operate with a conforming use and who said changing the land use would harm the historic integrity of the area and not allow it to be a walking, shopping, dining, tourist-drawing and business area. The business owners contend this was the concept they were sold in the area’s master plan and changing the land use will cause property values to fall and keep other businesses from locating to the area.
“There is no reason for me to stay. I’m going to sell my property and take my business to Van Buren,” said Kraig Koren with Premier Heating and Air, who was planning to move his heat and air business and open a brewery in the area.
Koren said he had talked owners of Joe’s Mexican Cantina and Yellow Umbrella about possibly locating the area, but those plans wouldn’t work if the area was an “industrial park.” Fort Smith attorney Nathan Mendenhall, who represents several of the business in the area, objected to the change saying the board had not looked at how doing so would hurt property values of existing property owners.
“I think before making this decision, the board needs to study the impact of the market value for those conforming property owners. The impact could be serious to property owners,” Mendenhall said.
FCRA attorney Dalton Person said any existing business inside the area with the land use change who were conforming to the old usage would still conform to the new use.
KRIJO Investments rep John Coats said his recently opened winery and Growfresh Organics, owned by Paul Van Lare and sells supplies for wine and beer making among other things, is sandwiched in among the warehouses in the area where the land use was changed.
“We were sold the vision of a walking, shopping district. I don’t know what this is going to do to our business. It doesn’t seem an industrial area will be too appealing to our product,” Coats said.
Now that the land use has been changed the warehouse business owners must seek permission from the Fort Smith zoning and planning department if they wish to make any changes or improvements to their properties. The department had denied such requests to CBC Construction and Development, which led to the initial request for a land use change months ago.