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Posted June 9, 2003
Surveyors Surprise Sullins With Sewer
Line would take out neighbor's trees

Just when you are trying to salvage some sign of victory from a major loss, you find out that one of the best positive items on your list has a serious negative side.

In the continuing negotiation with James Mathias, who is nearing the point of having complete approval to develop an apartment complex on a couple of acres of wetland prairie in south Fayetteville, the negatives already loom large:
The 2 acres remaining for development hold their own water and cleanse the water that falls on them. Developing the land requires a nationwide permit from the US Corps of Engineers and the law allows the corps to issue permits for small wetland areas almost routinely with relatively little study.

A magnificent savannah-like area that historically was a part of fairly large piece of prairie along the western side of Town Branch of the West Fork of the White River between Sixth Street and 15 Street, the acreage is almost the only such spot that has never been significantly altered. People who grew up when the land around it was farmed or used for pasture in the first half of the 20th century say that the 2-acre wetland was never successfully plowed for a row crop and was considered too boggy for raising and harvesting hay.

Given the beauty of the place and the many species of birds that nest in the trees and low vegetation on the land, allowing it to be paved and populated seems sinful even if it can be made legal by the touch of a pen in the hand of a corps official.

Among the good things is that the developer has agreed to preserve a strip of trees and other vegetation along the edges of his property to protect the privacy of the neighbors and to allow a portion of the birds and wildlife in the area to have a bit of habitat.

Another is that the developer has agreed to dedicate nearly half an acre of what was ti gave been a 2.46-acre apartment complex to be used as a small neighborhood park under the auspices of the city. The down side of that, of course, is that the park will be on the part of the land that previously held two houses, basically the only portion that cannot be legitimately described as wetland. Had the city's park-advisory board and park department been willing to accept a piece of prairie wetland as a nature preserve, part of the wetland could have been saved and the high ground used for building.

The biggest consolation in the loss, however, was that the developer has agreed to install some 650 feet of 8- or 9-inch sewer line to make certain that the 36 apartment units to be built on the 2-acre wetland area will not cause sewage backups into the homes of people who live east of S. Duncan Ave., across the street from the development. Unfortunately, Stanley Sullins discovered June 6 that the sewer work will come through his property and likely result in the destruction of at least a couple of trees that he planted years ago and are among his favorites!

Sullins' home already was known to be threatened more than any other building downstream from the proposed development because it stands near Town Branch and because the tiny tributary of Town Branch that drains a large area to the west runs through Sullins' yard, passing threateningly in front of the house. If a large amount of rain falls in a short time, the proposed developments' large paved area could send a lot of water into the proposed detention pond and cause a new level of flow from the 2 acres, seriously endangering Sullins' home.

While looking at the proposed scene of that disaster Saturday afternoon, all one had to do was turn from looking east and look west to see that Herman Swafford was busily shoveling dirt and grass out of the small tributary where it passes through his yard. Why destroy the prettiest part of his property? His answer was that a city alderman had told him it was a good idea. Another dark cloud on the Town Branch Watershed!

There is no way to find a silver lining when the cloud will increase the population of a neighborhood.

Please print, sign and mail this Letter to U.S. Corps of Engineers

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Aubrey James Shepherd
Fayetteville, AR © 2003, 2004, 2005

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