Typically, when Mayor Lioneld Jordan asks for public comment at a City Council meeting, he makes a blanket statement about how everyone gets just one turn at the microphone to speak on a particular issue, and he asks that comments be brief.
But at Tuesday night’s council meeting, he added to his disclaimer, telling members of the public to only address the council, and he warned against getting “into confrontation with anybody in the audience.” The mayor’s reminder was a keen indication of the high emotion entwined with the sale barn rezoning issue.
For a bit of context, the current owners of the sale barn want to sell their land, and they have negotiated with a buyer, Campus Crest LLC, who plans to build student housing on the property. But, before that development can go through, the land needs to be rezoned from I-1 (Heavy Commercial/Light Industrial) to Downtown General.
But this rezoning has met strong opposition, especially because the tract of land is adjacent to the Fayetteville National Cemetery. One after one, about a dozen people addressed the council, asking aldermen to deny the request.
The proposed student housing would cause a disturbance to the “sacred and holy ground” of the cemetery said Jim Buckner, a retired lieutenant colonel.
“It would only be a beer can throw away from those beautiful stones out there recognizing our veterans,” Buckner said.
Wanda Peterson held back tears as she spoke about living in the area since 1936. She has family buried in the cemetery, she said.
“I just can’t bear to think of an apartment building shadowing those graves,” she said.
After hearing public comment, the councilors briefly discussed their views on the issue.
Adella Gray, who represents Ward 1, called the ordinance a “serious decision.”
“We don’t want to rush it,” she said.
The property is in a historic area and “that needs to be considered,” Alderman Sarah Lewis said.
The councilors decided to take no action and left the ordinance on the first reading.
Mary Robbins is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She 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.