Aubrey Shepherd's focal point for display of Labrador retrievers, natural-resource conservation, English language word use, outdoor sports, recreational sports and athletics

Welcome to
  Town Branch
  News & Views


  Language Lane
  Louisiana Tech
of Arkansas
  Photo Albums
  About Us / Our
Friends / Family


First posted March 5, 2003
Aubrey's Notebook:
They're coming

"Some people are looking at the place next door. They are just leaving." Lauren had walked in the door talking. I ran outside quickly and crossed the street to ask a neighbor what he had seen. The people doing the looking were gone but they returned. They were members of the city's park-governing advisory board, They had copies of a plan created by engineers for a developer who within the past year bought a parcel of land that forms an L around the south and west sides of our half-acre lot.

Even though we jumped through the city's hoops a few months ago to form a neighborhood association, we had not been informed as promised when the developer started submitting plans to the city.

The park advisory board had been asked to consider accepting money in lieu of potential park land. An hour later, it was a done deal. The park board approved taking $18,000 in lieu of land for park use. An informal survey of people who live near the area proposed for development suggests that most believe the protection of green space, particularly the wetland, is more important than having the developer pay the city a fee for use in developing parks beyond walking distance.

The amount of the payment in lieu of providing greenspace onsite means the developer was hoping to get city approval of 48 apartment units on somewhat less than 2.5 acres of land. The land is partially wetland and is prime habitat for nesting birds but unsuitable for most purposes and certainly not ideal for an apartment complex. In the first half of the 20th century, it was pasture for a dairy farm.

Interestingly, the report on the proposal that the park advisory board members read before they voted asserted that the engineer planning the development had consulted the neighbors of the land. Actually, the engineer and the developer had consulted one family and may have considered that family's needs a little bit in the planning process. The rest didn't know the status of the plans. Only rumor had alerted the neighborhood to the possibility of development, leading to the effort to form a neighborhood association, which did indeed meet in 2002. However, neither the developer nor the engineer met with the group.

One must realize that this developer isn't doing anything unusual in this area. South Fayetteville houses are being bought by speculators or developers at a steady clip. Much of the area is zoned to allow the building of apartments, making it easy to get permission to build in established neighborhoods that previously harbored only single-family dwellings.

The engineers are experienced and competent and probably would not have drawn the plans as they are had they not been confident of sailing past most city regulations and even the Corps of Engineers' requirement of a federal permit to fill in the delicate wetland on the property.

On the other hand, many of us believe the wetland rules should NOT be broken simply because the corps doesn't choose to say NO. If a person understands the reasons for the rules and CARES about the future, it would seem impossible to many of us that filling a wetland would be an option.

People who sell their property at a low price in many cases don't realize how much more it can be worth to someone willing to build multi-family housing on it. I doubt the developers doing this are tearing down the houses in their own neighborhoods to build apartments, so they will never experience the change in this neighborhood that 48 apartments and 96 parking places will bring.

In 2000, the parcel was sold for about $56,000.00 to a young man who appeared to have no plan except to resell at a profit. Two small but quite livable houses facing South Duncan Ave. on the land rented for enough to double his probable payment if he borrowed the money to buy the property. In 2002, he found a buyer who obviously saw the 2.46 acres as perfect for a 48-unit apartment complex with no greenspace and enough concrete to park at least 96 cars and a few bicycles. The developer paid about $99,000. The rent being paid for the two houses at that time was more than enough to cover his payment.

>More views of the demolition<

In the fall of 2002, the developer had the houses bulldozed. The appliances, which worked and could have been donated to the Salvation Army Store or some other charitable resale shop, were crushed along with other usable items. As far as I could determine, there was no study beforehand to determine whether asbestos or lead paint was in the buildings or any other condition existed to suggest a different method of destruction would have been appropriate. In fact, the bulldozing of one house occurred only moments after some people staying in the house after the long-time renter had moved left the building with a pickup load of personal items.

And, of course, two families had to move elsewhere. Some live trees as well as one dead one were removed, without regard for the fact that, until plans were complete and approved by all concerned governmental agencies, they might have been spared.

A good deal of understory vegetation was crushed in the process. No attempt was made to save shrubs or flowering plants in the yards. The developer didn't violate any law by doing this.

The developer did not talk to me, the nearest resident, or, as far as I know, anyone in the old, established neighborhood before buying there. He apparently didn't consider whether the infrastructure was suitable for the additional traffic or water use or sewage load. He didn't violate any law by buying without considering the problems with developing here or the feelings of the neighbors.

The sewers have not been replaced since first installed. There is a problem with the water main that enters the area from the east. It has burst and exploded through 11th Street's blacktop repeatedly in recent years. At this moment, there is water rising from the blacktop at the same hump where the main has leaked before. The leaking water is enough to provide for several homes! There is no way to guess how much of the leakage is staying underground.

The developer didn't ask how many of the neighbors would object to months of noisy construction in the neighborhood. He didn't ask how many work a night shift and might not be able to get adequate rest while the work was being done. He didn't, apparently, consider whether being a couple of hundred yards from a cannery with its noise and bright light and odor of cooking when the wind is from the southwest would be suitable for his apartments. He didn't ask where the hundreds of song birds that nest in the lush understory vegetation on the land he bought would go when their habitat was destroyed.

These failures to consider relevant facts did not violate any law.

The developer did not survey the neighborhood to find out how many children now living nearby will be endangered by the expected 96 additional cars per day leaving and entering South Duncan Avenue near a school-bus stop. It may be assumed that he did not calculate the number of children who can be expected to live in his proposed apartment complex and can be expected also to be endangered when they cross or enter the street on the way to school or a park, which would be a mile or more away in all cases.

These failures to gather relevant facts did not violate any law.

Although early surveys of the land showed that a percentage of it was wetland, the plans the developer's engineers drew up, apparently at least partially before applying for a federal permit to drain and fill the wetland, appeared to have been based on the assumption that the wetland rules would not be enforced on this property, placing parking spaces where trees currently stand in a year-round wet area. In an attempt to meet the city, state and national standards for mitigating the increased runoff that would occur when rooftops and parking lots replaced the vegetated wetland, he had a retention pond drawn over a portion of the wetland near the south central border of the property, where the natural runoff enters a small branch that enters Town Branch of the West Fork of the White River about 200 yards to the east.

Drawing up such plans did not violate any law.

However, it demonstrated confidence that the Corps of Engineers would issue a permit to destroy the wetland area and showed no respect for the regulations designed to protect areas such as this portion of damp-soil mounded prairie.

If designed properly, such a retention pond can keep the speed of runoff from the area at about what is historically normal in a normal rainstorm, but it will not allow the water to soak into the ground where it falls. The concrete and the roofs prevent that. In a major storm, the pond will fill and the overflow will be GREATER than it would have been had the buildings and parking lots not replaced the vegetation and water-retaining soil. This might not seem important if this were the only area on this watershed being paved over. But the university controls the headwaters of Town Branch, and it is building parking lots and roofed facilities as fast as our tax dollars will allow.

The underground streams that are common in the Ozarks will not be replenished by such a pond. There will be little natural life in the area. The species of crawdads that burrow under such land and surface through large round holes found in many people's yards in this area, will, if these plans are completed, no longer exist on this prairie.

What is next? The proposal comes up for technical plat review the second week of March 2003 and could go before the city planning commission the following week.

There are many reasons this development should be decreased in size to protect green space and wildlife habitat and to allow the people who live in the proposed apartments and the residents of the surrounding long-standing neighborhood to enjoy a high quality of life.

It is a matter of educating the developer on the needs and desires of the people of the neighborhood and the best interests of the people who might choose to rent the apartments in the future. If it occurs, it must occur fast.


[Click here to email Aubrey]
Aubrey James Shepherd
Fayetteville, AR © 2003, 2004, 2005

Site design by Lauren Hawkins' LDHdesign