Farm­ing­ton High Pro­ject Moves For­ward

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn Kut­ter

FARM­ING­TON — Farm­ing­ton Plan­ning Com­mis­sion agreed at its Fe­bru­ary meet­ing to ap­prove a build­ing per­mit for the new Farm­ing­ton High School so the pro­ject can move for­ward.

The Com­mis­sion’s agenda in­cluded a re­quest from the school district for a vari­ance from the city’s Land­scape Or­di­nance. The

com­mis­sion is in the process of amend­ing the Land­scape Or­di­nance and Melissa McCarville, city busi­ness man­ager, rec­om­mended the school wait and re­quest its vari­ance af­ter the changes have been ap­proved.

Mark Hague­wood with Hight Jack­son As­so­ciates asked if the city could go ahead and at least is­sue the build­ing per­mit. He said an ur­gency ex­isted to get started.

“We have a short time to do the en­tire pro­ject,” Hague­wood told com­mis­sion­ers.

The school will open bids on the pro­ject March 17 and school of­fi­cials hope to move into the new build­ing for the 2017-18 school year.

Ge­of­frey Bates of Bates & As­so­ciates, the en­gi­neer­ing firm for the new high school, said the district wants a vari­ance for land­scape re­quire­ments for the perime­ter of the prop­erty.

“The land­scape or­di­nance works re­ally well on small com­mer­cial sites,” Bates said. “This is a 40 acre site so if you are putting trees around all the perime­ter, it (the costs) would be as­tro­nom­i­cal.”

The Com­mis­sion did not dis­cuss the school’s pro­posed land­scape plan but a lo­cal res­i­dent who lives across the street from the site ad­dressed the com­mis­sion about the im­por­tance of the land­scap­ing or­di­nance and land­scap­ing at the new school fa­cil­ity.

Alex Lacy said he and his wife have lived across the street for 35 years and know the “neigh­bor­hood pretty well.”

Farm­ing­ton is on the cusp of ma­jor de­vel­op­ment, Lacy said.

“If you drive around Arkansas and the lit­tle towns, most of them have seen their bet­ter days. You re­ally can’t see a lot of fu­ture in many of our towns. That’s not the case with Farm­ing­ton,” he said, adding he be­lieves Farm­ing­ton’s best days are ahead.

“I think the or­di­nance you are deal­ing with tonight is one of the most im­por­tant that our city has ever passed,” he said.

Lacy pointed to the new day­care cen­ter on South­winds as an ex­am­ple of the im­pact the or­di­nance has al­ready had.

“Think about how that might look if you hadn’t had this or­di­nance,” Lacy said. “Just look across the street at the de­vel­op­ment that was done there be­fore the or­di­nance. Com­pare those two cor­ners. It’s a huge, huge dif­fer­ence there.”

The same should be said about the new high school, Lacy said.

“This new site for the high school is go­ing to have more to do with peo­ple’s im­age of our town than any other site in Farm­ing­ton. It’s go­ing to be the most vis­ited site from peo­ple all over Northwest Arkansas, and since we are now divi­sion 5 in ath­let­ics, from all over the state of Arkansas. For ath­letic events and fine arts events, what peo­ple think of Farm­ing­ton is go­ing to de­pend a lot on what they think about this par­tic­u­lar lo­ca­tion.”

Phase 1 of the high school, Car­di­nal Arena and the Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, was built prior to the city’s Land­scape Or­di­nance and Lacy de­scribed the large fa­cil­ity as “pretty much bricks, mor­tar” and “al­most scorched earth de­vel­op­ment.”

The school re­moved hun­dreds of trees and put in “very, very few,” he said.

He pointed out land­scap­ing takes time for ma­tu­rity and re­minded the Com­mis­sion that other 40-acre sites will be de­vel­oped in the city in the fu­ture.

“It seems to me that you’ll have a very tough time if you give a vari­ance to a pub­lic en­tity and have a very hard time not giv­ing vari­ances to pri­vate de­vel­op­ments,” he added.

Lacy said he had one fi­nal com­ment to make be­fore clos­ing.

“I’ve been a teacher all my life, taught at five dif­fer­ent univer­si­ties and at one of the most beau­ti­ful cam­puses on earth, the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia.”

Lacy said the new Farm­ing­ton High cam­pus will be used for the next 50-75 years. The ap­pear­ance of a cam­pus is com­fort to the stu­dents and even in­spi­ra­tional, he said.

“I would think this needs an­other look. I don’t know what your al­ter­na­tives are but if you have an al­ter­na­tive to have more dis­cus­sion, I would hope you would take that al­ter­na­tive.”

Bates re­sponded that as the cam­pus is built out, more land­scap­ing would be in­stalled. Fu­ture plans in­clude a new foot­ball sta­dium, field­house, prac­tice foot­ball field and an agri­cul­ture build­ing.

“This is a pub­lic high school,” Bates said. “They are try­ing to do the best they can and spend the money where it is needed to be, where in my opin­ion and their opin­ion is on the build­ing and class­rooms. What they have left would go into land­scap­ing.”

Com­mis­sioner Judy Horne, who de­scribes her­self as “one of the big­gest tree hug­gers in Farm­ing­ton,” said she be­lieves the Com­mis­sion can work with the school district to come up with a plan that is rea­son­able and at­trac­tive.


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