The Fort Smith Board of Directors approved an ordinance rezoning areas in the historic district at Chaffee Crossing that will limit warehouses in the area. The directors approved zoning property at 7405 Ellis St. and 7600 Fort Chaffee Blvd. from not zoned to a Planned Zoning District (PZD).
In both instances the PZD would not allow for the properties to be used as a warehouse, Director Robyn Dawson (at large) pointed out to the board.
“They have taken out the use of warehouse property although there is warehouse property right next to this property (the property at 7600 Fort Chaffee Boulevard),” Dawson said, noting some property owners in the area purchased property with the specific purpose to be used as a warehouse.
The directors approved both resolutions with a vote of six to one with Dawson opposing in each occurrence. The resolutions only change the zoning for the individual property listed. The proposed zoning change at 7405 Ellis St. will allow the owners to obtain a building permit.
Nidec Motor Corporation will use the property for offices. Nidec manufactures a wide range of motors for appliances and industrial machinery and will employ 24 professional jobs. The zoning change at 7600 Fort Chaffee Blvd. will allow Kraig Koren, property owner, to develop the existing building and contractor’s shop into a brewery and contractors office. The properties are located in the portion of Chaffee Crossing listed as a mixed use: historic area.
“This classification is designated to facilitate the creation of a pedestrian-friendly environment to encourage the redevelopment of the historic core into a community and/or tourist destination. This classification is intended to preserve key existing Chaffee Crossing buildings by renovations, have infill development that has a contextual relationship with surroundings, and provide amenities in the open spaces with plazas, streets, and parks to reinforce the mixed use historic area,” said supporting documents for the ordinances.
Koren said he specifically wanted his property to not be able to be used as a ware house so it would fit better into a walking/shopping community area because he believes in the importance of having the area zoned to support that.
“We want to keep warehouses out of that area. Warehouse usage will go against what the area is,” Koren said.
He said he believes the zoning will draw people to the area, allowing for more growth and jobs for the community.
A lawsuit was filed May 17 in Sebastian County Circuit Court concerning a land use change in the general area of both of these properties. The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority and its board of trustees filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit June 21. On April 18, the FCRA board voted to change land use in part of the “historic warehouse district” to industrial/office.
The vote came after weeks of sometimes heated discussion on how to rectify an 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.
The lawsuit states the land use change should be deemed invalid because it was of a violation of due process, the land use change is not shown to be in the public interest but rather was “arbitrary and capricious,” and was for the benefit of specific land owners rather than the public as a whole; and “taking with no public purpose is invalid.”
The lawsuit was filed by Randy and Tina DeCanter with Old Fort Furniture; John Coats with JKC Cellars LLC and KRIJO Investments; Tasha and Alan Taylor with Truckin Delicious; Quentin Willard with Fort Smith Brewing Co. and QB Ventures and Micah Spahn with Fort Smith Brewing Co.
The revisions to the land use were needed to accommodate property development by CBC Construction & Development, Beam Properties and Blake Properties, all of which have industrial warehouses in the area. However, at the same meeting where FCRA approved the land use change, the board approved swapping property with CBC Construction & Development so their warehouse would no longer be located in the area in contention. Prior to the land use change, industrial warehouses were of nonconforming use in the specified area. This meant those business could not get approval from the Fort Smith planning and zoning department for any changes or improvements to their property.
During several meetings on the proposed change in land use, property owners who operate with a conforming use in the affected area raised objections to the change. They 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.