Res­i­dents ap­plaud as city plan­ners nix zon­ing per­mit

Pro­posed Crystal Flats site cov­ers about 28 acres east of down­town

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - MELISSA GUTE

BEN­TONVILLE — Res­i­dents whooped and hollered and many stood in ap­plause of the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion’s de­ci­sion to not per­mit Crystal Flats mixed-use development to be built just east of down­town.

Com­mis­sion­ers were tied 3-3. Scott Eccleston was ab­sent, and four votes were needed for the planned unit development zon­ing re­quest to be ap­proved for the development to move forward.

Com­mis­sion­ers Tregg Brown, Jim Grider and Joe Haynie voted against the zon­ing. Richard Binns, Rod San­ders and Greg Mat­teri voted for it.

The pro­posed site is about 28 acres along North­east John DeShields Boule­vard be­tween Legacy Vil­lage and Cir­cle of Life Hospice

to the north and west, Or­chards Park to the south and Me­mo­rial Park and a res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood to the east.

The development — called Crystal Flats —in­cluded apart­ment build­ings, town­houses and a core build­ing with a va­ri­ety of space for ser­vices, such as a cafe, fit­ness cen­ter and child­care fa­cil­ity.

Cindy Springs LLC is the owner of the prop­erty. The com­pany has the same post of­fice box as Wal­ton En­ter­prises.

Green Cir­cle Pro­jects, Safdie Rabines Ar­chi­tects, Polk Stan­ley Wil­cox Ar­chi­tects, Eco­log­i­cal De­sign Group and CEI En­gi­neer­ing As­so­ci­ates are all work­ing on the project.

About 150 nearby res­i­dents showed up in op­po­si­tion to the project at the July 5 Plan­ning Com­mis­sion meet­ing. The most com­mented con­cerns re­lated to height of the build­ings and the development’s im­pact on traf­fic.

Developers cre­ated a Face­book page to col­lect feed­back on the project as well as held a com­mu­nity meet­ing July 26 where more than 100 peo­ple at­tended, ac­cord­ing to a letter Craig Cur­zon with Polk Stan­ley Wil­cox Ar­chi­tects wrote to plan­ning staff.

More than 100 at­tended Tues­day’s meet­ing.

Seven changes were made, in­clud­ing re­mov­ing one story from the core build­ing, low­er­ing its height from 75 feet to 55 feet tall. An ad­di­tional res­i­den­tial build­ing was added to the prop­erty’s west side to move the units lost in the core build­ing and keep the over­all development at 650 units, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments.

That may seem like a lot, but it’s a “responsible num­ber” given there are five peo­ple a day mov­ing into Ben­tonville and an­other five peo­ple a day mov­ing into North­west Arkansas, Matt O’Reilly, with Green Cir­cle Pro­jects, told com­mis­sion­ers.

Good peo­ple and fam­i­lies are mov­ing into Ben­tonville but they can’t af­ford a place to live, he said.

“If we can’t af­ford to put any of this work­force in down­town Ben­tonville, what you have is the slums on the out­side and the priv­i­lege on the in­side,” O’Reilly said. “That’s the clas­sic for­mula for com­mu­ni­ties rot­ting from the in­side out.”

Brad Kings­ley, res­i­dent on North­east Sec­ond Street, said it took his fam­ily a year to find a house near down­town they could af­ford to buy and ren­o­vate.

He said he bikes to work and his fam­ily bikes to down­town and Crystal Bridges of­ten. They have re­duced to one car.

“That’s the type of life­style that we moved here for,” he said, ex­plain­ing why he was in fa­vor of the development that would pro­vide more hous­ing op­tions near the city’s core.

Kings­ley was one of three who spoke in fa­vor of the development. There were 12 oth­ers who spoke against it dur­ing the pub­lic hear­ing com­mis­sion­ers per­mit­ted after O’Reilly’s half hour pre­sen­ta­tion.

Com­mis­sion­ers were go­ing to vote after the pre­sen­ta­tion, but res­i­dents said they ex­pected to be able to speak at Tues­day’s meet­ing, es­pe­cially since space was lim­ited at the July 5 meet­ing. Tues­day’s meet­ing was moved to the pub­lic li­brary to ac­com­mo­date the large crowd. The July 5 meet­ing was held in the Com­mu­nity Development Cen­ter where res­i­dents spilled out of the meet­ing room, into the lobby and out the front doors.

The crowd grum­bled Tues­day while com­mis­sion­ers mum­bled about whether to per­mit com­ments.

Greg Mat­teri, com­mis­sion chair­man, said he would al­low a pub­lic hear­ing for a half hour and asked those who spoke dur­ing the July 5 meet­ing not speak again in re­spect for those who haven’t voiced their thoughts.

Res­i­dents ex­pressed con­cerns over traf­fic and ar­gued apart­ment com­plexes typ­i­cally draw crime. Sev­eral said they be­lieved the pro­posed round­about at North­east John DeShields Boule­vard and North­east J Street would cause more prob­lems than it would solve.

“Peo­ple don’t know how to use a round­about,” said Toby Coyle, res­i­dent on Glen­brook Av­enue.

Some res­i­dents asked the com­mis­sion­ers to sim­ply hear the peo­ple. Kevin Gra­ham, res­i­dent on South­west D Street, re­called the July 5 pub­lic hear­ing where sev­eral peo­ple spoke in op­po­si­tion but only one spoke in fa­vor of the project.

“Do you have a moral re­spon­si­bil­ity to stand up for the general pop­u­la­tion that lit­er­ally voted 100 and some­thing to one?” Gra­ham asked com­mis­sion­ers.

There was lit­tle dis­cus­sion among com­mis­sion­ers prior to their vote.

Developers have the op­tion of ap­peal­ing the com­mis­sion’s de­ci­sion to City Coun­cil within 30 days.

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