Fort Smith metro permits up 40.9% in July; zoning district planned for Fianna Hills

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 3,850 views 

Building activity in the Fort Smith metro, which had been on the decline for the past few months, rebounded with a vengeance in July with monthly totals coming in more than 40% higher than in July 2020.

The area’s three biggest cities reported $25.91 million in building permit values, up 110.6% from the $11.7 million in June and up 40.9% from the $17.75 million value in July 2020. The heavy month of building brought the region’s year-to-date numbers closer to last year’s level. At the end of June, the region’s building activity was down 5.5% when compared to the first half of 2020. At the end of July, the region’s year-to-date permit value total of $172.9 million is only down 1% from the seventh-month total of $184.84 million reported at the end of July 2020.

Fort Smith issued 232 permits in July with a value of $22.28 million, a 99.3% jump from the $11.18 million value of the 237 permits issued in June and up 25.5% from the $17.75 million value of the 201 permits issued in July 2020. Fort Smith’s building permits for the seven months of the year total $157.55 million, up 6.6% from the $147.8 million in the first seven months of 2020.

On the residential side, Fort Smith issued new construction permits with a value of $3.85 million, down 26.4% from the $5.23 million value of new home construction permits issued in June and up 30.5% from the $2.95 million value in new residential construction permits issued in July 2020. Much of the new construction is additions to the StoneRidge housing development at Chaffee Crossing.

Crawford-Sebastian Community Development Center and Strategic Realty of Van Buren broke ground Aug. 13, 2020, on the new $8.3 million affordable housing development in Chaffee Crossing. The three- and four-bedroom plans range from 1,400-1,600 square feet.

Fort Smith made up for two full months of no new commercial construction permits, issuing three permits for new construction with a value of $5.51 million in July, more than 36 times the $150,000 value of one new commercial permit issued in July 2020. New commercial construction permits included a $2 million project at 7200 Cameron Park Drive for the new Center for Hearing building and the $3 million Owens Corning project at 5401 Excelsior Drive. 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.

No building permit has been filed yet, but Mickle Wagner Coleman has filed a request with the city of Fort Smith for a planned zoning district (PZD) at the southwest corner of Jenny Lind Road and Brooken Hill Drive. The preliminary plat lists the owner as Fianna Properties, LLC. The PZD would allow for a mix of light commercial, retail and professional office uses, according to Maggie Rice, director of development services. The property is the site of the second tee box and first hole green of the Fianna Hills Golf Course. Renderings submitted with the request call for a Fianna Hills Retail Development for the three lots in the request.

Rendering of planned development on part of what was once the Fianna Hills Golf Course.

On May 18, the Fort Smith Board of Directors approved resolutions allowing part of the Fianna Hills Country Club golf course to be replatted and included into residential lots, most likely ending the chance to reopen the Fianna Hills golf course. The board approved three separate resolutions that 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, Rice said in a memo to City Administrator Carl Geffken.

David Millé, owner of Fianna Hills Country Club and golf course, closed both 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. When the replatting resolutions were approved in May, Millé said 140 of the 283 pieces of land on the golf course are under contract.

The Planning Commission will take action on the PZD request at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at the Blue Lion, 101 N. Second St. If the Planning Commission recommends approval, it will be placed on the BOD’s Sept. 7 agenda, Rice said.

Van Buren, the region’s second largest city, issued 135 permits in July with a value of $1.46 million, a 154% increase from the $575,100 value of 216 permits issued  in June and a 110% increase from the $693,750 value of 71 permits issued in July 2020. The monthly activity included $1.37 million in residential building, up 161% from the $524,500 in June and up 130% from the $596,100 in residential building in July 2020.

There was $48,500 in commercial activity in the month, up from the $2,500 in commercial activity last month but down 5.8% from the $51,500 in commercial activity in July 2020. Van Buren’s permit totals through July were $18.93 million, 28.3% higher than the $14.76 million in the first seven months of 2020.

Greenwood issued 24 permits in July with a value of $1.26 million, about 11 times more than the 111,946 value of permits the city issued in June and a 103% increase from the $619,900 value of permits issued in July 2020. One of the city’s July permits is for a $600,000 renovation permit to the Walmart at 551 Libby Drive in Greenwood. For the first seven months of the year, Greenwood has had $6.37 million in building permit valuations, up 14.4% from the $5.568 million value issued through July 2020.

The three cities ended 2020 with $264.757 million in permitted building activity, a 9.52% increase over the $241.741 million in 2019. The gain came mostly from Fort Smith, as Van Buren and Greenwood showed drops in their building numbers from 2019.

Combined total for the three cities
2020: $264.757 million
2019: $241.741 million
2018: $231.78 million
2017: $210.844 million
2016: $211.345 million
2015: $218.899 million
2014: $198.983 million
2013: $202.389 million
2012: $154.64 million
2011: $201.079 million
2010: $149 million