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First printed in The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas 2/7/04
City Panel Continues to Seek Property For Preservation
Tree, Trail Task Force Recommends Purchase To Mayor


FAYETTEVILLE — Members of the city's tree and trails task force are hoping to negotiate to obtain another parcel of land. The 2.5-acre site, within the bounds of the Town Branch Neighborhood Association in south Fayetteville, is west of South Duncan Avenue and neighbors Pinnacle Foods and residential areas. The property appraised for $86,000.

Property owner James Mathias has asked for $130,000 for the land, but the price puts the property out of the reach of the task force, which has $97,568 remaining in its account, because city-based groups cannot pay more than a property's appraised value.

During a meeting Friday, members of the task force decided to seek alternate routes to obtain the property, including negotiation.

"There's certainly valid reasons for looking at this," said Ward 1 Alderwoman Brenda Thiel, a member of the task force who represents residents of the area. "I would certainly recommend us taking one more stab at it." Ward 3 Alderman Bob Davis said he favored the project because the land is near other trails planned in the city and could serve as a link in the Master Trail Plan.

"If we have the ability to connect trails, it's more enticing because then the community's able to enjoy that," he said.

The six-member task formed in April 2001 seeking to purchase undeveloped parcels of preserved land for the city as part of a lawsuit settlement agreement.

The lawsuit was filed in May 2000 after the City Council's approval of Steele Crossing Shopping Center, which failed to preserve the 15 percent minimum tree canopy required by the city's tree preservation ordinance. The settlement agreement required the city to set aside $450,000 in taxpayer money for the acquisition of trail right of way and conservation easements.

Last year, the group purchased 21.35 acres between U.S. 71 and Razorback Road, donated money to the purchase of 67 acres on Mount Sequoyah and secured acreage along Clabber Creek, which was the group's second priority for preservation. The land was secured after Mayor Dan Coody offered the developer tax credits in exchange for donating the land to the city to be preserved.


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