The Fort Smith Board of Directors on Tuesday (May 18) approved resolutions allowing part of the Fianna Hills Country Club golf course to be replatted and included into residential lots. The vote likely ends any chance to reopen the Fianna Hills golf course.
The board approved three separate resolutions that will allow 16 lots, one tract and two partial tracts to be replatted to become larger lots by adding parts of the Fianna Hills Golf Course to their backyards. The board tabled votes on the replatting at two different meetings earlier this year in order to give interested parties the chance to negotiate the golf after residents of the area appealed decisions of the planning commission to replat a portion of the neighborhood.
The plats comply 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.
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. Sebastian County Quorum Court member Danny Aldridge, who lives in Fianna Hills, requested the 90 days Feb. 2 in order to bring parties together to negotiate ways to keep the golf course and other amenities of the country club even though Mark Moll, attorney for David Millé, owner of Fianna Hills Country Club and golf course, said golf courses are not profitable now and around 800 have closed across the country in the past two years. Millé closed the Fianna Hills Country Club and golf course Dec. 31, 2018.
On-again and off-again efforts to buy the country 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.
Aldridge reported Tuesday that negotiations had not been successful. He said part of the reason it was not successful is that Millé more than doubled the asking price on the property to $2.4 million. The original agreement between Millé and the local investors was for $1.1 million. Aldridge said investors had been able to prove the golf course could be a profitable investment at the $1.1 million and even at a “significantly larger amount” but not at the $2.4 million.
Board members André Good, George Catsavis, Lavon Morton and Jarred Rego voted for the resolutions. Directors Kevin Settle and Neal Martin voted against it. Director Robyn Dawson abstained from the vote because her daughter and son-in-law live in Fianna Hills and their property backs up to the golf course. Settle lives in Fianna Hills.
Settle raised questions about what happens to the lots that are not purchased by land owners, noting that replatted lots in at least one instance surround an unsold piece of property.
“Who is responsible for mowing that?” Settle asked. “What are we going to do when property owners start complaining about the grass getting too high?”
Millé said 140 of the 283 pieces of land on the golf course are under contract.
Alford brought up property owners’ concerns of their property losing value with the closing of the golf course. He said at least six homes in the area have sold for less than owners paid for the property and in some cases, sold for less than the value on the tax rolls. Settle said the lower property value would end up hurting the city in terms of lower property tax revenue.
Martin said he was against the replatting because once one piece of property was approved to be replatted, the golf course would cease to exist.
In other business, the board agreed to annex 111.16 acres of property located south of Planters Road and east of Arkansas Highway 45. Owens Corning Composite Materials, LLC, FM Ft. Smith, LLC, and Stephens Land Holdings, LLC, owners of the said property, requested the annexation
Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning announced in February it is building a new 550,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Fort Smith that will replace the existing plant the company built in 1984. The estimated $115 million project is expected to add five jobs. Geffken said the city would not attempt to annex any surrounding property without property owners requesting the annexation.