members of the Town Branch Neighborhood Association waited from
8:30 a.m. until well after 11 a.m. to voice their concern about
a 48-unit apartment complex proposed for 1121 S. Duncan Ave.
people left before the public hearing for their neighborhood began
because they could not afford to lose a full day of pay. But the
few who stayed were allowed to speak, and their thoughts caused
the committee and members of the planning staff to reconsider the
original schedule, which would have recommended that the project
be moved to the Planning Commission in time for the April 14 meeting.
came out was that a neighborhood has been developing a sense of
being of no importance to the city of Fayetteville for many years.
The proposed development simply has provided a catalyst to bring
forth years of frustration over a perceived neglect and lack of
respect from city government.
neighborhood is home to some of the city's most loyal citizens.
Not long before this development was proposed, Cliff Craft, often
cited as the city's best-known hero of World War II, died. Craft's
widow still lives in a home on 12th Street. Her back yard borders
the proposed development. Her back yard has been flooded in the
past and the paving of the wetland to facilitate the project easily
could threaten her property even more significantly should an extended
period of heavy rain occur, despite the best efforts of the developer
to mitigate the flooding potential of the area.
developer, James Mathias, is a member of a longtime Fayetteville
family that owned a business in south Fayetteville for decades.
bought the property in question less than one year ago and apparently
had no way of predicting how unfavorably the neighbors would view
the prospect of having the wetland acreage filled and paved over
and a large apartment complex built there.
is unlikely that the real-estate broker who sold him the property
understood the potential effect of such a large project on the neighbors.
Mathias bought the 2.46-acre tract with a pair of rent houses expecting
people in the area to welcome development as an improvement rather
than a threat.
many longtime residents of the Dunn Addition, represented today
by the Town Branch Neighborhood, were stunned by the idea of the
possibility of building apartments in a part of the neighborhood
that had been recognized for generations as undevelopable wetland.
a rumor went round that 48 apartments would be built on the 2.46
acres, they didn't believe it. Some laughed at the idea. Then one
day in the fall of 2002 the first of two rent houses on the land
was demolished. Not much later, the second and final house was demolished.
neighborhood began to wake up. Sometime earlier, a neighborhood
association had developed as people agreed to be a part of it. However,
meetings hadn't been called because there was only routine concern
to be voiced. Mostly people just talked to one another about the
problems of speeders on South Duncan Ave. and Ellis and Hill Street.
Some invited police officers to park in their driveways and watch
for the speeders at night. They called the appropriate city office
when a water line exploded and sent tons of water and debris through
the blacktop or their yards flooded after a big rain. They called
the appropriate department when excess stormwater ran into the sewer
and sewage backed into their homes and yards. They hadn't developed
the habit of complaining to high officials. Neither their aldermen
nor their mayor had heard their complaints. They accepted the fact
that problems existed. They tolerated and even mentored neighborhood
kids in the afternoon because they were alone and unsupervised in
one-parent homes. They tried to ignore the odor from the former
Campbell Soup Plant because it represented the smell of jobs for
some of the residents. They seldom mentioned the passing of the
trains on the A&M Railroad a quarter-mile to the west, because
it was a part of the neighborhood before most of them were born.
accepted the fact that some residents were poorer than the rest
and sometimes needed a ride to work or to the doctor's office or
help with a bill. They seldom complained when a neighbor's yard
wasn't mowed as often as theirs, because they knew that some people
were retired and unable to pay for frequent mowing. They understood
that some residents didn't fully understand the city, state or county
rules and went directly to the offender rather than call officials
when an illegal fire was started in an adjacent yard during a burn
ban or with plastic, rubber, glass, metal or processed wood in violation
of state regulations.
was a quiet neighborhood of people who mostly minded their own business.
They gardened and watched birds and occasionally held a garage sale
or took a walk and visited with friends on the way. However, there
had never been a need for a formal meeting until 2002.
the meetings began, decades of unspoken frustration surfaced. The
subdivision committee of the Fayetteville Planning Commission got
a taste of that frustration April 3 when the proposed project in
the Town Creek Neighborhood came before it in a public hearing.
developer, the engineer who designed the plan of the project, the
planning staff and the planning commissioners on the committee all
must have felt the barrage of complaints and stories of past but
still-unsolved problems was directed at them. However, it was more
than that. These people saw the development plan as the last straw
on the back of a camel of neglect and disrespect that they had felt
for many years.
the public hearing opened, one of the officers of the Town Creek
Neighborhood Association invited Andrea Radwell, a doctoral candidate
in stream ecology, to explain the federal regulations on stormwater
runoff. She gave a brief, concise explanation of the newly instituted
rules designed to protect the quality of our lakes and rivers and
to protect people and their property from flooding.
made it clear that the proposed Duncan Avenue Apartments were typical
of hundreds of such plans that soon would be coming before the city
Planning Commission and that the problems of people living nearby
and the potential for violation of federal regulations would exist
with all of them. She was not attacking this development or this
developer but trying to educate the public and public officials
about the necessity of careful study before authorization of such
representative of the neighborhood presented a handout list of special
neighborhood concerns and also read most of it aloud. Then, he introduced
Mitch Woody, whose two houses are south and downstream from the
land slated for development. Woody shared pictures of the situation
created by water passing through his yard and pointed out that any
increase in runoff could endanger his house as well as his yard.
He said that he no longer believes there should be development in
the west wet-prairie area of the acreage.
Wanda Peterson, who lives to the southeast on the south side of
Town Branch on Ellis St. but grew up on Hill Avenue in one of the
older, larger houses, known as the Moody House, presented photos
of flooding in her yard in 1973 and said that the problem had never
Diana Smith, whose house is only slightly north of the point where
traffic from the proposed development would enter South Duncan Avenue,
spoke about the sewer backups and how Larry, her husband, once lost
a finger lifting the sewer manhole to see what was backing up the
sewer and described the waterline breaks that have broken her windows
and damaged her roof as gravel and such blew over her house in the
past two years. Then she questioned the destruction of the rent
houses on the land proposed for development, citing the possibility
that asbestos and lead paint may have been in the houses, creating
a need for certified inspection before demolition. Smith also talked
about the proximity of the driveway to her house and the dangerous
Hoodenpyle, who has lived for 35 years in a house on 2 timbered
acres at the northeast corner of the intersection of 11th St. and
S. Duncan Ave., described the sewage backing up into his house and
the flooding that erodes his yard and the waterline breaks and related
Jennifer Creel. whose husband is remodeling their house directly
across from the entrance to the proposed development, got on the
subject of putting in a park for the kids and that is up for negotiation
with the park board and the developer.
Hawkins pointed out that the proposed development was inappropriate
for the single-family neighborhood, including her view that the
trailer parks in the area are actually collections of single-family
dwellings and are a better alternative than apartment buildings
for families that value shade trees and yards of their own.
Biggers, who manages a trailer park directly north of the proposed
complex, spoke up about the huge crawdads that come up in their
chimneys in the trailer park and discussed sewage problems in the
project has to come back to the subdivision committee instead of
going directly to the planning commission on April 14 as previously
city engineers were instructed to look into infrastructure problems
and discuss these problems with the neighbors before the upcoming
May 15 meeting.
of the association pointed out that other developments were planned
for the undeveloped wetland area between 11th Street and Sixth Street
and that the potential for degradation of potential historic and
archaeological sites should be studied before any development is
approved in the Town Branch basin. Some members are seeking to convince
the City Council to pass ordinances to require the planning commission
to include all aspects of a development in its studies before approving
zoning is the only big hurdle and in south Fayetteville zoning already
allows single-family neighborhoods to include multi-family housing.
So developers face no tough challenges unless a neighborhood speaks