City Council members will have the final say on whether land is rezoned where a Walmart Neighborhood Market is planned near the Mill District in south Fayetteville.
The Fayetteville Planning Commission this week unanimously rejected a request to rezone 4.8 acres on the northwest corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Government Avenue.
The property, owned by Thad and Burt Hanna, is currently zoned as a mix of C-2 (Thoroughfare Commercial) and I-1 (Heavy Commercial/Light Industrial). The Hannas are seeking to rezone the entire property to C-2.
Jesse Fulcher, senior city planner, told commissioners it was a tough decision when considering the request.
“It’s industrial property that’s got a lot of older buildings on it, all being used for industrial and heavy commercial uses,” said Fulcher. “So it almost feels easy to rezone it to anything else, honestly, than leaving it as I-1.”
But, he said, the C-2 zoning district, which requires buildings to be built away from the front of the property and encourages parking lots to be built in front of the building, is not in keeping with the city’s long-range planning goals for the area which encourage pedestrian-friendly developments.
Two residents who spoke at Monday’s meeting disagreed, and said a new grocery store is badly needed in that part of town.
Dwight Rash, a 40-year resident of south Fayetteville, said having a new Walmart in the neighborhood would be much more convenient than driving to the west side of town or to the uptown area.
Alex Mahler, who owns rental properties near the proposed development, said a Walmart would improve the property and would at least make it look better than what’s there now.
Sonia Davis Gutierrez, who is running for City Council in Ward 1, was against the rezoning, and said the industrial zoning district makes for affordable rents for small business owners looking to get started in Fayetteville.
“I’m not sure a small business owner could afford rent in this area if it were zoned any other way,” she said.
Local artist Hank Kaminsky, who, along with his wife JoAnn, owns The Art Experience located across the street, said he had mixed feelings about the property. He said he wants to see the land become something more than just an industrial zone, but is concerned about the appearance of the types of developments allowed by the C-2 designation.
“We will gain property value, but we will lose certain kinds of value that we’re not interested in losing,” said Kaminsky.
Commissioner Tracy Hoskins said while he supports the city’s 2030 Master Plan, he doesn’t think it should apply to every piece of property in town.
Hoskins agreed with Kaminsky and said it’s a give-and-take situation for the Mill District.
“It is a rebirthing part of the city that I believe deserves new services,” he said.
Plus, Hoskins said, the property is only about a block from Frisco Trail.
“It would be great to be able to ride a bike to get groceries whether the building is next to the road or not,” said Hoskins.
Commissioner Porter Winston agreed that the Mill District is a young area, but said that’s why he felt a precedent should be set now.
“I want to encourage the Mill District to grow and expand and become a walkable destination,” said Winston.
Other commissioners said they would rather see the property be developed under a form-based zoning district, which encourages buildings to be constructed along the street with parking in the rear.
“It’s a good middle ground,” said Commissioner Kyle Cook. “It provides the commercial needs that people want, but keeps in line with the aesthetics people want to see in Fayetteville.”
Craig Honchell, a commissioner who is running for City Council in Ward 4, agreed with Cook and said a form-based zoning would encourage slower traffic along King Boulevard and give the neighbors a guarantee that whatever is developed on the property would be compatible with the area.
After about a half hour of discussion, the Planning Commission voted 8-0 to deny the request. Although Hoskins said early in the discussion he would support the rezoning, he voted against the request. He later explained that since a motion was made to deny the rezoning, and then the motion was changed to support the rezoning, he was confused and voted against his intent. Commissioner William Chesser was absent from Monday’s meeting.
The Hannas are expected to appeal the commission’s decision to the Fayetteville City Council in early November.