James Mathias gained approval May 27 from the Fayetteville Planning
Commission to build his South Duncan Ave. apartment complex. Since
first considered by the Plat Review Committee in March, the scope
of the project had been reduced from four buildings with 48 units
to three buildings with 36 units.
of the Town Branch Neighborhood Association worked hard and attended
several public meetings in the effort that led to compromise on
the size of the project. However, those who attended the May 27
meeting left unhappy that many of their expressed concerns were
not addressed by the planning commission.
appeared to understand the validity of many of those concerns; however,
the commission operates within a very limited scope, able to demand
that developers follow city guidelines and ordinances but unable
to adjust projects when the existing regulations do not actually
fit the reality of a given development site.
instance, the fact that the project in question involves filling
and paving over wetland did not stop the project. The rules require
a plan to compensate for the lost protection from flooding that
a natural wetland area provides. Building a pond to delay the release
of stormwater from the project area fulfills the legal requirement
as long as city engineers agree with the projections of the developer's
people whose property the runoff of the project will cross on the
way to Town Branch do not believe that the proposed detention or
retention pond will protect their homes in the event of a sustained
heavy rain that would quickly fill the pond and allow it to overflow.
problems, waterlines in the area that have broken frequently in
recent years and cut off service in the neighborhood for many hours,
the loss of nesting areas for songbirds in understory vegetation
on the wetland prairie area, noise and air pollution during construction,
the inability of several people who work nights and live near the
project to sleep during construction, potential crime and noise
created by the large increase in population in a mostly single-family
neighborhood, the fact that more and larger development is planned
upstream along the Town Branch and many other factors were not considered
in the approval process.
calling for further study before approval were particularly unhappy.
One neighbor was concerned that houses demolished on the front portion
of the site were not inspected by proper experts when the refuse
was removed and may have resulted in lead paint, asbestos and other
potentially hazardous material being left near the surface. The
commission did not discuss this problem.
a call for study of the shallow underground water courses on and
adjacent to the property to be developed was not discussed by the
commission, which had access to the minutes of a subdivision committee
meeting at which this was emphasized because of concern over the
potential reduction of underground water surrounding the site and
thus a potential to cause adjacent land to develop sinkholes.
such concerns are not included in the commission's oversight responsibility.
Unfortunately, appeal of projects that are approved by the commission
is not automatic. People leaving the meeting expressed surprise
and anger when told that a developer has an easier route to appeal
if a project is denied than does an aggrieved neighborhood when
a project is approved.
caused renewal of comments heard earlier from many people in the
neighborhood that the developers have the money and the power and
that there would be no point in attending meetings and speaking
because their fear of the potential harm of the development would
be ignored by public officials.
is up to the two council members from Fayetteville's Ward 1 to bring
the neighbor's appeal before the council. Robert "Swifty"
Reynolds and Brenda Thiel are the Ward 1 council members.
may have appeared to be going slowly to some, but for neighborhood
residents it has all happened quickly.
May 15, the Subdivision Committee of the Fayetteville Planning Commission
sent the plan for the proposed South Duncan Ave. apartment complex
to the full Planning Commission.
May 5, Mr. Mathias made a major concession to the Town Branch Neighborhood
Association when he got permission from the Fayetteville board that
advises the planning commission and city council on park matters
to offer 0.46 acres of the 2.46-acre parcel of land to serve as
a neighborhood park.
half acre was the site of two rental houses that stood some 50 years
at 1121 and 1131 S. Duncan Ave. before being demolished in November
2002 to make room for an apartment complex originally conceived
to include 48 apartments in four buildings.
developer would have had to pay $18,000 in lieu of greenspace on
the property but now will donate the land and pay only about $2,500.
plan shown to the subdivision committee May 15 included only three
apartment buildings on the west 2 acres of remaining property. Additionally,
the developer has offered to replace at least 650 linear feet of
sewer line under South Duncan Ave. downstream from the development
to reduce the impact of the new apartments on the already burdened
sewage system in the neighborhood.
on the east side of the 1100 and 1200 blocks of S. Duncan have experienced
frequent stoppages and backup in their sewer lines because most
are lower than the street. Also, the old lines are small but originally
were considered adequate for sewage flow from the existing houses.
Bunch, the engineer planning the Duncan Avenue apartment complex
for Mathias, said after the meeting of the park-advisory board that
she would be investigating the possibility of using a state-of-the
art sewer-replacement method that would minimize the need to dig
up the street and repave it. However, because the increased load
on the sewer will involve increasing the size from 6 inches to 9
inches, the old-fashioned method may have to be used.
at the planning meeting, engineer Mandy Bunch asked the planning
staff about the possibility of using the lot-line adjustment method
to separate the park area from the development, which will still
have an access road or driveway through the north side of the front
half-acre to reach S. Duncan Ave.
lot-line adjustment is scheduled to go up for an in-house review
Monday morning June 16 in the planning office west of City Hall.
It will not involve a public meeting.
variance to allow only a 46-linear-foot street frontage on the development,
a decrease from the requirement of 90 linear feet of frontage, to
accommodate the park donation will be discussed by the Fayetteville
Board of Adjustment at 3:45 p.m. Monday June 2 in Room 326 of City
additional concession made by Mr. Mathias before he gained approval
of the project was an increase in the height of the wooden privacy
fence from 6 feet to 8 feet along the southern border of the proposed
development. This change was to fill a request from Betty Boudrey,
who lives on West 12th Street on the southern border of the moist-soil
mounded prairie proposed for development. The neighborhood association
cited the need for suppressing noise, dust, light pollution and
other factors that may affect the neighbors during and after construction
of the project.
representatives supported that request and cited the importance
of preventing any destruction of trees or brush along the border
of the Boudrey property. It was understood that the developer would
make the same fence height and vegetation-protection concession
for the other two pieces of property that border the developer on
downstream neighbor, Mitch Woody, proposed and the neighborhood
supported, the removal of one more building from the plan. The building
Woody sees as most affecting the chance of the proposed detention/retention
pond's capacity to prevent flooding of his property to the southeast
of the development and that of other downstream neighbors is the
one slated for the southwest quadrant of the 2-acre tract remaining
in the development plan. The commission did not discuss this possibility.
of the association repeated their concern that other development
proposed between 11th Street and 6th Street on the Town Branch watershed
will have a much greater impact on the basin in the neighborhood
and that every development must be considered when any project is
up for approval. The commissioin did not address this concern.
much larger development is expected to be brought before the city
planning division in coming months, as Hank Broyles continues to
buy property between 11th and 6th and talk about a proposal for
townhouses and other multi-family dwellings to be constructed in
the area. Broyles, like James Mathias, appears to have good intentions.
the east side of Town Branch contains a significant amount of timbered
lowland that includes permanent as well as seasonal wetland that
currently serves to restrain floodwater from Town Branch after it
crosses beneath the railroad tracks south of 6th Street.
Branch originates on the UA campus, where no effort appears to have
been made to prevent downstream flooding and where much new development
with extensive paving has been planned. The value of protecting
wetland in the Town Branch basin for cleansing and slowing flood
water from the campus will increase with every new square inch of
pavement on the campus.
the Mathias development is built, the Town Branch Neighborhood Association
would be expected to help maintain the small neighborhood park at
1121 South Duncan Ave. and likely would be seeking donations to
help provide playground equipment, a half-court basketball area
and various items to outfit the park for youngsters who may live
in the proposed development as well as others in the neighborhood.
following are some of the items of concern brought up at earlier
meetings by members of the neighborhood association in addition
to the need for the park and the sewer work:
on the residential street that often moves much faster than is safe,
particularly when children are present.
lines that frequently break and allow water to rise high above 11th
Street in geyser-like fashion.
along the Town Branch that already occurs downstream of the development
and could be radically increased should the retention or detention
pond planned for the southern portion of the wetland area in the
western portion of the development prove inadequate to handle all
the runoff from the property once the water-holding soil is replaced
or covered by concrete parking places, driveways and buildings.
special concern are houses near the path of a small stream that
runs from the large open parcel of land owned by Pinnacle Foods
(formerly Campbell Soup) to the west. On the west side of S. Duncan
near 12th Street, all water from the area along S. Duncan all the
way from 15th Street joins the small stream to run under Duncan
into the Sullins family's yard east of Duncan. The Sullins home
is lower than the stream and on the periphery of the Town Branch
the 2-acre plot proposed for development is almost in its original
state. It currently serves the purposes of wetland areas, cleansing
the water that runs from it and allowing most of it to soak in and
replenish the underground water courses rather than rapidly flowing
2-acre parcel proposed for development is the only part of the mass
of land drained by the small west-to-east tributary that actually
controls its own runoff onsite.
small stream draining the old Campbell Soup property that passes
extremely close to three houses offers a threat that the owners
take very seriously. Engineers can straighten and channelize streams
but such work only speeds runoff. It does not reduce flooding downstream.
It increases flooding at some point downstream and it destroys the
valuable fish and wildlife habitat that a natural stream provides.
A channelized stream is an ugly ditch.
experts say that flooding must be prevented near the headwaters
of streams. Retention ponds help but do not actually provide the
full range of protection that natural, fully vegetated wetland areas
offer AT NO EXPENSE!
meandering stream with trees and rocks, not concrete, along the
edges and boulders scattered in the streambed moderates the speed
of runoff. Wetland adjacent to streams -- such as the mounded, moist-soil
prairie that would be mostly filled and paved for this development
and lowland wooded wetland such as is found for nearly half a mile
on the east side of Town Branch between 6th and 11th streets --
works in conjunction with a meandering, tree-lined stream to prevent
is well known that storm-water runoff from the University of Arkansas
campus has not been managed in the past as growth on the campus
has occurred rapidly without reference to city, state or federal
guidelines for storm-water control.
of this situation, an extra burden is placed on developers working
downstream to avoid increasing the already serious problems. Town
Branch begins near Cleveland Street at the northern edge of the
UA campus with water running east into the valley from the mountain
to the west of Razorback Stadium and west into the valley from the
area of the UA administration building, Student Union and other
facilities. The stream itself gathers into a recognizable channel
near Bud Walton Arena and flows through Carlson Terrace, the housing
area for married students.
tributary of Town Branch that flows from slightly to the west and
drains the area west of Razorback Road collects in the only detention
or retention pond on the campus, just outside the right-field fence
of Baum Stadium at 15th Street. The city has already approved in
principal the development of significant acreage to the southwest
of the baseball field that drains into the western-most branch of
Town Branch, which originates west of Interstate 540 near U.S. 62.
apartment complex built on the north side of Cato Springs Road near
its intersection with S. Garland Ave. several years ago brought
complaints of new flooding from neighbors that were never satisfactorily
addressed either by the city or the developer, according to Betty
Carnes, who lives on the south side of the development and Larry
Horn, who lives southeast of the project.
the university decides to spend millions of dollars to redesign
a few areas on campus to significantly slow the flow of water from
the campus under Sixth Street and down Town Branch south of Fayetteville
High School, it will remain extremely important that ANY development
that includes new expanses of roof or new paved areas or the removal
of any trees or other vegetation south of Sixth Street in the Town
Branch basin be carefully planned to protect and enhance rather
than fill existing wetland. The experience of the Cato Springs Road
neighborhood could become the experience of the Town Branch neighborhood.
is essential that the university partner with the city in seeing
that university growth and private development in coming months
and years follow both the spirit and letter of the body of law and
federal, state and city regulations pertaining to the prevention
of flooding and the degradation of water quality downstream.
Town Branch Neighborhood south of Sixth Street and between U.S.
71B and Razorback Road contains a wide variety of housing types.
There are several grand houses, some more than 100 years old, many
50- to 60-year-old houses and four mobile-home parks. Most of these
established residences are surrounded by mature trees, including
some majestic trees of high quality and of great age, a lot of grassy
green space and substantial areas of under-story vegetation that
harbors the nests of thousands of songbirds.
neighborhood needs sprucing up in many ways. However, it is too
valuable to be replaced by pavement and apartment buildings and
altered land that can't retain its own storm water!