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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Arkansas Business says developers demand consistent approval process in June 2, 2008, article


Arkansas Business quotes developer's demands on June 2, 2008



Arkansas Business quotes developer's demands on June 2, 2008



Hank Broyles was trying to be the good guy when he paid more than $5 million in 2007 for the 28 acres of land left vacant by the unsuccessful Aspen Ridge development.
But it didn't take long for Broyles to become the bad guy.
Broyles' multi-family infill development, Hill Place, which was developed to occupy the land vacated by the former Aspen Ridge development, received unanimous approval from the city planning staff and commission.
But the proposal has faced the scrutiny of Fayetteville residents and city council members since the beginning of April.
Residents have criticized the proposal, the property type and, during the past few meetings, have focused the criticism on Broyles himself.
"They're mad at the development and even though I had nothing to do with it at the time it was left incomplete, I'm the target," Broyles said of disgruntled residents who live near the defunct subdivision.


Broyles thought he was doing the right thing by developing the land and bringing a new infill project to the city, now he's not so sure.
For the past two years, several developers have approached the city of Fayetteville with new infill and mixed-used developments in response to a call for more of those types of developments through the City Plan 2025.
But Fayetteville city council meetings have become minefields for developers and their projects.
Some Fayetteville residents use the bi-weekly meetings to condemn the projects the city feverishly pushed for just two years prior. Council members often allow weeks or months of public opinion to override developers' plans, solutions and outside professional opinions.
According to parties on both sides, the approval process has become lengthy, expensive and unpredictable.
Developers are growing tired of the council's seemingly impulsive nature and many, like Broyles are saying "no more."
"New infill project have become far too risky," Broyles said. "Residents like infill developments until they come to their backyards, then they don't like it. I won't do [an infill project] again unless it's on contracted land.
"If the council denies Hill Place, then I'm stuck with 28 acres and the mortgage payments," Broyles said.
City Plan

Developers Demand Consistent Approval Process
By Katie Stockstill
6/2/2008


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Approved in 2006, Fayetteville's City Plan 2025 was the catalyst for new infill development.
Fayetteville spent $225,000 to hire a Florida-based community-consulting firm to help create a document that would guide and outline the community's future growth and development.
The approved plan included six goals for the future of the city. Goal No. 1: make appropriate infill and revitalization the highest priority.
The plan quickly gained the approval and support of Fayetteville residents, employees and elected officials.
Developers saw Fayetteville's desire for infill and began bringing projects to the table.
Designing and engineering an infill development is no easy task, Broyles said. The plans are often much more difficult to complete because of the limited space, existing neighborhoods and pre-existing conditions.

But when done well, Davis said, infill projects can become a great, low-impact addition to a neighborhood and community.
Infill projects are often presented to the city as planned zoning districts, which allow developers to apply for re-zoning and development rights at the same time.
The city council must approve all re-zoning requests and consequently have to approve all proposed PZDs.
On June 3, the council will vote on three PZDs; Hill Place, Bridgedale Plaza - a mixed-use infill project planned for east Huntsville Road - and Forest Hills - a mixed-use infill project slated for Wedington Drive.
Hill Place was the only development to be approved by the planning commission. Bridgedale Plaza and Forest Hills were both denied by the commission but chose to appeal the decision to the city council.
Jeremy Pate, director of current planning for the city of Fayetteville, said PZDs were intended to simplify the approval process but the opposite seems to have happened.
Approval from the commission is not a green light for developments nor is a denial a dead-end. The city council always has the final vote.
"The council does make the final decision and it's based on policy and policy issues are just that - guiding policies, not laws," Pate said.
Public Input
Ruskin Heights developers Ward Davis, Morgan Hooker and Dirk Van Veen were not prepared for the reception they received from residents and the city council when they presented their plans for Ruskin Heights in late 2006.
"It was like walking into a hornet's nest," Van Veen said. "We had attended hundreds of neighborhood meetings and met one-on-one with dozens of neighbors. But we were still met with a preponderance of opposition."
Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody described the council's treatment of the developers as brutal and frustrating.
And the council's hostile environment wasn't reserved for the Ruskin Heights developers.
Multiple Fayetteville developers said they have received the same contradictory response and reaction to their proposed infill project.
Broyles said it's a case of "not in my backyard."

Residents are fine with changes and new developments until developers attempt to bring the change to their neighborhood.
"People just don't like change," Broyles said.
Developers can approach the council with a unanimous approval from the planning commission but face an onslaught of questions and demands from residents and council members.
And following the lead of residents, many council members have become inconsistent in their voting and opinions of infill projects, casting a dissenting vote to support the minority that disapprove of the development.
Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody said the city council's tendencies to side with the minority discount the majority's opinion and thwart the entire approval process, leaving the developer frustrated and discouraged.
Re-zoning and development decisions aren't that simple, said Ward 2 council representative Nancy Allen.
Allen said public opinion must be part of the decision and labels herself as a neighborhood advocate and consequently votes to represent the neighbors.
"The council's actions have shown us just how difficult it is to get a great project approved and how easy it is to get a terrible project through," Van Veen said.
But sentiment for the minority doesn't run through all council member's blood.
Ward 3 city council representative Bobby Ferrell said he continues to be an advocate for the Plan and empathizes with the developers' desires for more predictability from the city council.
"They hire professionals and as they come through the process they do what's required by the development ordinances and the planning commission votes it in," Ferrell said. "Then you have three or four ‘NIMBY' people show up, that's the most frustrating thing.
"Everyone has the right to speak their mind but I don't think the opinion of one or two people should override the expertise of opinions.
"If we're not going to approve the infill projects we asked for, then I think we can find better ways to spend our money," Ferrell said.
Bridgedale Plaza developer Clint McDonald said the opinions and inconsistencies boil down to politics and personal favor.
The Ruskin Heights developers agree.

Solutions Pate said the city has had multiple discussions about how to make the approval process more predictable but so far little has changed.
The city will never adopt zoning-by-right so the next best thing is to get the planning staff and city council on the same page.
Ward 4 council representative and mayoral candidate Lioneld Jordan admits the approval process is flawed but said voting solely by the planning commission's recommendation isn't feasible.
The public must always be allowed to comment and have a say in what goes on in their backyard.
Allen and others said they believe public sentiment for infill projects will increase once an infill development is completed. But that could take years and, Coody said.
The City of Fayetteville doesn't have that much time, he said.
http://www.arkansasbusiness.com/article.aspx?aID=105671.54928.117794&view=all&link=perm
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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Greed rules.

Anonymous said...

Why did you post this gibberish???

My blood was boiling over the way our neighborhood was treated by five members of the council. They don't seem to understand at all.
And the mayor spoke only on the LIE that the trailer parks had overflowing septic tanks. They were on city sewer lines, for the Lord's sake. When did he visit and did he even speak to any of the people who were evicted and ask where they would move to?
I know you tried hard. I am sorry I didn't get to the council meetings. I really thought you had the situation under control. But, after all that interaction, the votes went the same as if we hadn't tried at all.