City coun­cil votes to make con­nec­tion

Ac­tion needed to com­plete ar­te­rial loop, ‘Mayor’s Box’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - STACY RYBURN

FAYET­TEVILLE — The fi­nal piece com­plet­ing an ar­te­rial loop around the city was put in place Thurs­day.

The City Coun­cil voted 6-0 on three items to con­nect Rup­ple Road from Tan­yard Drive to Weir Road. Coun­cil mem­bers Adella Gray and Matthew Petty were ab­sent.

The move rep­re­sents the last con­nec­tion needed to com­plete an ar­te­rial loop, also re­ferred to as the Mayor’s Box, around the city. An­other piece com­pris­ing the north­west cor­ner of the box is set for im­prove­ments, but a road ex­ists. It goes from where Rup­ple Road be­comes Howard Nick­ell Road, then curves east and be­comes Arkansas 112 be­fore tran­si­tion­ing to Van Asche Drive.

The rest of the Mayor’s Box takes a short route north along Steele Boule­vard and fol­lows Joyce Boule­vard east, turn­ing south down Cross­over Road and head­ing back west through Happy Hol­low Road and 15th Street. It takes a slight route north on Ra­zor­back Road to get to Martin Luther King Jr. Boule­vard, and re­sumes west un­til hit­ting Rup­ple Road.

Robert Rhoads with Hall Estill law firm rep­re­sented de­vel­oper Buff­in­g­ton Homes, who will pur­chase the prop­erty from the Dar­rel and Mar­garet McFar­land fam­ily trust. The 65 acres was passed down through gen­er­a­tions of the fam­ily.

Rhoads said the dis­cus­sions that took place for nearly a year are a good ex­am­ple of a plan­ning depart­ment, ad­min­is­tra­tion, de­vel­op­ers and landown­ers com­ing to­gether for the good of the city. An item to re­zone the land first came through the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion in Novem­ber last year but was de­nied. An ap­peal of the com­mis­sion’s de­ci­sion to the coun­cil has been on hold since Jan­uary.

The re­vised pro­posal in­cludes land uses out­side of strictly res­i­den­tial, as was ini­tially pro­posed. City At­tor­ney Kit Wil­liams helped draft an agree­ment with the de­vel­op­ers to gain the right of way and terms for an­nex­a­tion also came to­gether. The land lies just out­side the city.

Even if plans to de­velop the land fall through, the city still gets the right of way for the road con­nec­tion, Rhoads said. The plan is to make it four lanes with a me­dian, trail and side­walk.

“You can’t lose from that stand­point,” he said.

Part of the deal en­tails voter ap­proval of a bond is­sue next year. Vot­ers will be asked to re­new the city’s 1-cent sales tax in or­der to gen­er­ate about $200 mil­lion for roads, pub­lic safety and other cap­i­tal projects.

The de­vel­oper will build the road and the city will pay for the work, pend­ing ap­proval of the bond. The cost of the work to the de­vel­oper

is capped at $2.3 mil­lion.

City engi­neers es­ti­mated to­tal cost on the project at $5 mil­lion. That means tax­pay­ers likely will save about $2 mil­lion to $2.5 mil­lion with the deal in place, as op­posed to the city go­ing at it alone, City En­gi­neer Chris Brown said.

The re­vised zon­ing plan will al­low about 4 acres of small-scale com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment south­west of the in­ter­sec­tion with Weir Road. An in­cluded agree­ment says any res­i­den­tial uses within that dis­trict would go above the first floor of a build­ing.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the Fire Depart­ment an­tic­i­pates re­duc­ing re­sponse time in the area by a minute or two, reach­ing the de­sired goal of no more than four min­utes, Fire Chief David Dayringer said. The depart­ment also is look­ing at the pos­si­bil­ity of putting a new fire sta­tion some­where in that part of town, he said.

Coun­cil Mem­ber Sarah Marsh said she has a high bar when it comes to an­nex­a­tion. But, she said, fin­ish­ing the Mayor’s Box will help make get­ting around on the trails or on pub­lic tran­sit more fea­si­ble for that part of town.

Mayor Lioneld Jor­dan re­called start­ing the ef­fort to im­prove Rup­ple Road about 15 years ago. Jor­dan was on the coun­cil then and his beard was still red, he said.

“You don’t ever get any­where by your­self,” Jor­dan said. “It al­ways takes a team of peo­ple see­ing the vi­sion with you.”

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