It was shoulder-to-shoulder seating at Tuesday night’s city council meeting as aldermen heard another sundry round of public comment on the sale barn issue. But after about 90 minutes of discourse, the council held off on voting up or down to rezone the property from I-1 (Heavy Commercial/Light Industrial) to Downtown General.
The owner of the sale barn property wants to sell the land to Campus Crest, a North Carolina-based company that plans to build student housing on the nine acres. But, that purchase is contingent on the rezoning.
Many of the comments were repeats from the council meeting two weeks ago. Neighbors reiterated their concerns that student apartments would not fit in with the surrounding community. Several veterans spoke against the rezoning because they would like to expand the Fayetteville National Cemetery, which is adjacent to the sale barn property.
The veterans said that with time, they would be able to raise the money needed to buy the property, and reminded the council that U.S. Representative John Boozman, recently said he would seek a federal earmark so the veterans could buy the property.
An attorney speaking on behalf of the property owner said that the family’s livelihood is tied up in the land. Asking the owner to hold off on the sale of the land would be a hardship, Justin
Eckman Eichmann said.
Jeremy Pate, the director of development services, said this area was designated as a “city neighborhood” in the 2025 Plan, which encourages a denser residential pattern. The Planning Commission approved the rezoning in a vote 6-1.
Ward 1 Aldermen Brenda Theil said the Downtown General zoning would not provide enough of a buffer between the surrounding neighborhood and the commercial area.
Shirley Lucas, alderman for Ward 4, said her main concern was traffic-related because students would cut through the neighborhood to get to the university.
The 2025 plan does not mean “for us to invade established neighborhoods.” Lucas said.
Adella Gray, who represents Ward 1, said she was ready to vote in favor of the rezoning and added that the veterans shouldn’t count on a federal earmark, because Representative Boozman is “not strong on earmarks.”
“He’s not promised anything,” Gray said.
Ward 2 Council member Matthew Petty said many of the comments made were “over fear.”
“We haven’t seen too much reason come forward,” Petty said.
The audience was unusually audible during the meeting, and not just at the microphone when addressing the council. When a representative from Campus Crest explained the property would have an alcohol policy, the crowd collectively scoffed, which was quickly subdued by Mayor Lioneld Jordan. After State Senator Sue Madison spoke against the rezoning, those in agreement applauded.
The issue was left on the second reading and will continue at the next council meeting on July 21.
Mary Robbins is a guest contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. Mary declared Fayetteville as her hometown upon moving here for college. She is a Journalism graduate who enjoys live music, the outdoors and attending city council meetings. For more of Mary’s contributions, visit her author page.
Disclosure: The owner of the sale barn property, Billy Joe Bartholomew, is our own Dustin Bartholomew’s grandfather. Read our full disclosure policy here.