Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Southpass, budget pass, Hoskins freeway subsidy delayed

The Morning News
Local News for Northwest Arkansas

SouthPass, Budget Move Forward
By Skip Descant
FAYETTEVILLE -- Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody cast the deciding vote Tuesday night to extend a sewer line to the SouthPass regional park. The council tied 4-4, with Nancy Allen, Shirley Lucas, Bobby Ferrell and mayor-elect Lioneld Jordan voting against.
Please click on images to ENLARGE view of Fayetteville, Arkansas, city council on December 2, 2008

Because of many issues, such as cost and concern about developing on Mount Kessler, the SouthPass project has been controversial. The move Tuesday night was just another step in its slow march forward. Should the city kill the project -- a large mixed-use residential and park project in southeast Fayetteville -- it has been suggested by the city attorney that Fayetteville could be sued for not following through on contact obligations.
"I don't have any choice but to vote 'yes,' because I don't want to see the city end up in a lawsuit," Coody said.
The cost-share approved Tuesday night means the city will pay roughly $745,000 as its half of the cost of bringing sewer service to the project. The money will come from water and sewer impact fees.
The council also unanimously approved its $119.5 million 2009 city budget.
Jordan, who will be Fayetteville's next mayor and campaigned for cost-of-living raises, said the city could revisit raises in the first quarter of next year when officials know exactly how much surplus money the city finished 2008 with.
A 2 percent cost-of-living raise would cost roughly $800,000, said Paul Becker, Fayetteville's finance director.
Chickens can now legally cluck, scratch and lay eggs in Fayetteville backyards.
By a vote of 7-1 the council approved an ordinance to allow up to four hens per home. Robert Rhoads voted against, saying the ordinance seemed vague. It allows for both the slaughter of chickens, and prevents cruel treatment or killing of the birds.
"What is our business is passing legislation that may be confusing," Rhoads said.
"When it comes to the issue of slaughter, you know, we really haven't addressed it," said Jill Hatfield, superintendent of Fayetteville Animal Services.
A plan to require the chickens be registered with the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission did not receive support.
"It would become a permitting process," said Brenda Thiel, a council member. "And I don't think we're really going to have enough chickens to justify that."
By a vote of 5-3, the council voted down an appeal by developers for Amberwood Place, a 40-acre development with 177 dwelling units, some of them slated as attainable housing. Lucas, Jordan and Ferrell supported the project, primarily because it provided homes in the $110,000 to $135,000 range, a house type many say Fayetteville is lacking.
"If we want some (affordable) places -- and we've asked our developers to do this -- we've got a situation right here, and I'm all for it," Ferrell said.
"I really think we need some more homes that people can afford," Lucas added.
Other council members agreed with the city's planning staff and Planning Commission, saying Amberwood Place is contrary to Fayetteville's City Plan 2025. And also, some council members were not in favor of grouping affordable housing as a bloc.
"I have a lot of concern about it being bunched together," Allen said. "I have concerns that today's affordable housing may be tomorrow's slums."
And a move to enter into a $2.16 million cost-share with developer Park West LLC to extend Arkansas 112 into an open field to both encourage and access new development was sent back to the Fayetteville Street Committee for further study.

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