FAYETTEVILLE – Initial plans for woodlands at the end of Rolling Hills Drive would bring a row of connected townhouses along Old Missouri Road and some small-scale commercial uses around the corner.
Heated discussions took place at City Hall beginning in late 2017 when the land was rezoned. Neighbors have launched a campaign to prevent development on the 39-acre site, including street signs and t-shirts. The city council eventually voted in 2018 to rezone the land from a residential area allowing up to four units per acre to one allowing denser units and a mix of commercial and residential uses.
The city’s technical committee, made up of staff from various departments, reviewed development plans for the 5.6-acre site facing Old Missouri Road on Wednesday. Plans call for 40 residential units and four commercial units.
Clay Morton and Phil Crabtree with Mission Contractors bought the land for $3.42 million in October and plan to develop it in phases, naming the project Stage Station. Blake Jorgensen of Jorgensen & Associates is the project engineer.
Morton said everyone on the development team lives in the city and is aware of the attention paid to the land during the rezoning process.
“We’re not just developers who come in and don’t care,” he said. “We want to drive down the street in 30 years and be really proud of it, because we’re from here.”
The team wants to preserve as many trees as possible while providing housing that is as affordable as possible, taking construction and land costs into consideration, Morton said. The city desperately needs more housing, and building homes while maintaining tree canopy are not mutually exclusive ideas, he said.
“Trees sell homes,” Morton said. “If this neighborhood looks like it has a bunch of mature trees, the builder benefits and everyone benefits.”
What is the plan?
The 5.6 acres included in the first phase of development stretch along Old Missouri Road from the intersection with Rolling Hills Drive south to Oakcliff Street. Plans show a tree preservation area at the south end of the development, where several old pine trees dominate.
To the north, at the intersection with Rolling Hills Drive, would be four units for commercial use. Morton and Crabtree said they don’t have any tenants yet, but they are considering offices or perhaps small cafes or cafes.
Between the north and south ends would be a row of 30 connected two-story townhouses. Drawings submitted to the city show connected garages between units.
Morton said townhouses will likely be rentals or condominiums. He said he had a targeted project budget and price in mind for the townhouses, but construction material and labor costs have increased during the pandemic and are still trending higher. . By the time developers are ready to build, the budget could be totally different, he said.
A sidewalk and street trees lined Old Missouri Road in front of the houses. A trail is also planned to run northeast through the property.
Development plans also show 10 single-family homes to the east, behind the townhouses. The idea was to have higher density at the front off Old Missouri Road with lower density penetrating deeper into the property, Morton said.
A proposed Rolling Hills Drive expansion included in the city’s master plan drew criticism from neighbors during the rezoning discussion. The connection had been included in the street plan for years, but neighbors noticed it once the land came under scrutiny.
The street plan originally called for Rolling Hills Drive to be widened from two lanes to four lanes and connect east in a forehand to Crossover Road. The city council amended the street plan in 2018 to retain Rolling Hills as a two-lane road and moved the proposed route of the connection slightly south to Oak Bailey Drive, which connects to Crossover Road.
“We have no desire to connect to Oak Bailey,” Crabtree said.
However, the development team’s hands are tied. The city will need future phases of the project to make the connection unless the city council again amends the street master plan to remove it, said Ryan Umberger, the city’s senior planner.
Future phases of the project are still pending, Morton said. But the developers would agree to the city council removing the connection, he said.
“It doesn’t benefit us or do anything for us to connect it,” Morton said.
Room by room
Liz Krauft, a neighbor in the area, said she had mixed feelings about the development. She said she was sad to see the loss of trees and the inevitable impact on wildlife in the woodland area.
On the other hand, the city is in a housing crisis and needs to increase its housing stock, Krauft said. She also liked the plan to have a trail on the site.
Krauft said she hopes developers will keep a wooded buffer between the project and Butterfield Trail Elementary School immediately to the north. She said she liked the look of the proposed townhouses.
The general consensus among neighbors seems to be that they don’t want development on the site but feel powerless at this point to do anything about it, Krauft said. However, everyone she talks to agrees they don’t want the connection between Rolling Hills readers and Oak Bailey.
“I think there’s a lot of ill will in it,” Krauft said.
The neighbors concern about the connection is about security. High-speed cars have troubled Rolling Hills for years, and creating a lane between major thoroughfares College Avenue to the west and Crossover Road to the east could make the problem worse, she said.
About 10,000 cars a day travel on Rolling Hills Drive, according to a map from the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The city plans to redesign the street, with two-intersection mini-roundabouts and narrower traffic lanes in hopes of slowing traffic.
The technical committee for the dish has requested revisions to the layout plans for the course and may review them again on March 30. If approved, the plans would be submitted to the Planning Commission’s subdivision committee on April 14. From there, the plans could be submitted to the full Planning Commission on April 25, which would vote on its approval.
A landowner can appeal a planning commission decision on a development plan to the city council. Anyone other than the owner, such as a neighbor, must appeal on their behalf through a member of council, Assistant City Attorney Blake Pennington said.
Denial of a plan would not prevent the land from being developed, Umberger said. The applicant could submit a new plan, which would restart the process, or submit the same plan after a year, he said.
Umberger said nothing seemed obviously wrong with the plans upon initial review by the set’s technical committee. The committee just needed more information, he said.
The biggest hurdle for the project may be a request for a conditional use permit, Umberger said. City code classifies connected townhouses as a multi-family residential use, which is only permitted under land zoning with a permit from the Planning Commission.
Morton and Crabtree said the timeline for the project depends on how long it will take to get through city processes. He said the development team hopes to meet with neighbors soon to go over the plans.
“Obviously you can’t please everyone,” Morton said. “But we are an open book in terms of showing what we do and answering any questions or concerns.”
On the Web
To view the land plan drawings at Rolling Hills Drive and Old Missouri Road in Fayetteville, go to: nwaonline.com/320landplan/