The decision on allowing alternative use for a portion of former Fianna Hills Golf Club property that some argue would be a “downgrade” is now headed to the Fort Smith Board of Directors at its Feb. 2 meeting.
The subject property is located within the Fianna Hills subdivision located north of Roxbury Lane. The 1.6-acre replat area includes three lots and a portion of the golf course. Mickle Wagner Coleman, on behalf of Fianna Properties, LLC, filed the application to replat the property. The plat complies with the applicable standards of the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO) subdivision standards and the area and bulk requirements for the zoning district in which it is located, noted Maggie Rice, director of development services, in a memo to City Administrator Carl Geffken.
Approval of the preliminary plat will allow portions of the existing Fianna Hills Golf Course to be platted with adjacent residential lots creating three larger residential lots. The planning commission unanimously approved the replat request.
John Alford of Alford Law Firm, attorney for the Fianna Hills Property Owners Association, filed an appeal of the planning commission’s approval of the replat. Aaron St. Amant with Morrison-Shipley Engineers, Inc., in an email to Brenda Andrews, senior planner for the city, said the “re-platting is a departure from its original configuration at the time of subdivision platting and, as such, would not conform to the original intent as an amenity for the surrounding community.”
He also said the platting “is destructive in nature, in that platting in this manner would result in the fragmentation of property historically reserved for use as a community amenity that has been otherwise considered a fundamental component of the Fianna Hills community identity and marketing strategy” and would result in a “downgrade from its current use.”
Allen Crawford, a property owner who was a member of the former Fianna Hills Country Club and Golf Course for 45 years, said in an email to the planning commission he was concerned about the platting of the golf course as well.
“I have committed to purchase the lot but only because I want to protect my property. I do not think it will enhance my property value, if any, and will probably raise my personal property taxes. I had rather the golf course and club be functional as it was intended with the founders and was successfully managed for over 35 years. The use of the extended lot is limited with not real means of access. I think it will downgrade the overall appearance of Fianna Hills property, when some will probably build maintenance sheds of varying designs with no real means of controlling,” Crawford said.
David Millé closed the Fianna Hills Country Club and golf course Dec. 31, 2018. The on-again-off-again effort to buy the club and golf course by a group of local investors fell through in September. Millé said in a letter to property owners Sept. 21 that he did not believe the investment group could make it work. He began working to sell parts of the golf course to homeowners immediately adjacent to the course.
The group of local investors – Fianna Golf LLC – had an agreement with Millé to buy the property for $1.1 million by Sept. 15, but that deal fell through when Fianna Golf wanted more time to conduct due diligence. Pete Charlton, a spokesman for Fianna Golf, said the club roof had storm damage and it was not adequately repaired. With the deal seemingly dead, Fianna Golf held a meeting in early September with attendees agreeing to make a second attempt to buy the club and course.
Millé noted in a letter dated Sept. 21 to Fianna Hills property owners that the club and course was no longer for sale.
“This is to inform you that I have taken the property off the market as a golf course and I am offering it to the individual property owners as before. I believe this is the best way to protect the value of our homes and our property as I live in the neighborhood too,” he noted.
Millé alleged that Fianna Golf has not been able to raise enough money to “meet the bank’s criteria,” and it would likely close in a few years if they were to buy it. Failure to keep the club open could require a property auction and that “could result in large apartment complexes being built throughout our neighborhood!”