Complaints heard about land sales process at Chaffee Crossing

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 2,603 views 

After hearing from a group concerned whether their offers to buy property through the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA) are ever brought before the board, the authority board opted to soon hold a study session to discuss procedures for property sale contracts.

On the agenda for the FCRA board of directors regular meeting Thursday (April 21) was a resolution giving the FCRA executive director express authority to negotiate contracts and determine if contracts should be brought to the board’s real estate review committee. FCRA attorney Dalton Person said the authority had been part of the executive director’s job description in the past but somewhere along the way it stopped being so, though practice had been implied and continued over the years.

“I believe it implicitly is there and was previously explicitly stated,” Person said. “I do not believe that if you all were to approve of this in its current form, that you would be giving up any particular powers.”

Several builders and business owners expressed concern over the practice being made official through a resolution, saying they had made several offers on property in the recent past that were never considered or given to the board. FCRA Executive Director Daniel Mann said he has not received any offers that he had not discussed with those making them or had the FCRA real estate agent discuss with the parties.

“I have a 24- to 48-hour rule that I follow on getting back to any individual,” Mann said. “That is just the way I do business.”

Mann also said that since he took over at FCRA in August 2019, there has been zero change in the way his office has operated in terms of purchase offers. He said all offers are not accepted because of a variety of reasons including, price, length of time the prospective buyer says it will take to complete due diligence, and sometimes a proposal will not fit in that area. He added that all reasons are conveyed to the one making the offer.

Quentin Willard, Rod Blake and Steve Beam all addressed the board saying they have made legitimate and fair offers that have been rejected and never brought before the board.

“There was an offer of $945,000 to buy the golf course. Most of you don’t know anything about that,” said John Alford, a Fort Smith attorney representing some of the interested parties.

He suggested that before the board approves a resolution granting the power to the executive director, they should consider guidelines or procedures and policies for dealing with purchase offers. FCRA Board Member Don Keesee said the board needs to hold a study session where the board could consider with public input what those procedures should be.

“Historically, I think we haven’t seen every offer that has been made. We have not seen (offers) that are just ludicrous. There has never been a problem. But something has happened. It sounds like we are not seeing offers that are close to value or higher than something close by that you would think should come to us. We need to get things smooth and working again,” Keesee said.

The board approved a motion to hold a study session in time to get a resolution dealing with negotiations on the agenda for the next board meeting, which will be May 19.

Mann said after the meeting that it was important to keep in mind that there was $5.2 million in property sales in 2021, which was a record number of sales. There also was $428 million capital improvement projects in 2021, which is 24% of the total capital improvement that has happened at Chaffee Crossing.

“If it is the will of the trust to put in safeguards, by all means work at the pleasure of this trust. Many of the people in this room, I have made sales to, some multiple sales to. I don’t know why things have changed now,” Mann said. “It’s my job and my responsibility to create the greatest public benefit for the remainder of the property that we have at Chaffee Crossing (800-850 acres of developable property). … The second thing I try to do is to create the most value not just for us … but for the people who have invested into this project.”