Fayetteville's town and gown committee changes membership, focus

Posted: November 20, 2017 at 1 a.m.

The sun sets Thursday over downtown Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas. The Town and Gown Advisory Committee, designed to encourage dialogue between city and university officials, will have fewer members, fewer meetings and a wider scope. Administrators with the city and University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, agreed to the changes this fall.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Members of a committee designed to encourage dialogue between city and university officials say its goals will be more attainable under recent changes.

The Town and Gown Advisory Committee, formed in 2012 with 21 members, will have fewer members, fewer meetings and a wider scope. Administrators with the city and University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, agreed to the changes this fall.

Town and Gown Advisory Committee

Members

Co-chair — Don Marr, chief of staff to the mayor

Co-chair — Laura Jacobs, chief of staff to the chancellor

City Council representative — Mark Kinion, Ward 2

Associated Student Government president — Andrew Counce

Fayetteville Public Schools representative — John L Colbert, associate superintendent

Fayetteville director of communications — Susan Norton

Associate vice chancellor, university relations — Mark Rushing

Fayetteville director of development services — Garner Stoll

Associate vice chancellor of facilities — Mike Johnson

Resident at large — Matthew Ramsey

Resident at large — Leslie Belden

Resident at large — Keith Tencleve

Resident at large — Donna Daniels

UA student living off campus — vacant

Source: Staff report

Meeting schedule

The committee will now meet at least twice yearly, as opposed to quarterly. Its next meeting is coming up.

When: 3 p.m. Monday

Where: Room 326, City Hall, 113 W. Mountain St.

The idea for the committee came about as a way to handle potential conflicts between student-housing development and neighborhoods surrounding campus, Fayetteville's Chief of Staff Don Marr said. With a growing student enrollment, about 27,000 as of this fall, the need to address that issue still exists, along with others, he said.

"We have things that happen in the campus boundary that are very different than something happening up north by the mall or out west or east," he said. "There are things that they're doing and they're building that impact the neighborhoods and areas that are most adjacent to them. It does give you an ability to have a more focused discussion."

The committee's original scope included campus expansion, student housing, parking and noise. The committee will still take on those issues, but under larger umbrellas of capital projects, transportation and traffic, planning, neighborhoods, community engagement and public safety and security as it relates to campus.

The committee will consist of about a dozen members. Two co-chairmen will lead meetings, Marr for the city and Laura Jacobs, chief of staff and associate vice chancellor, for the university. Other members include representatives of the City Council, Associated Student Government, residents from different wards, a student living off campus and other city and university staff members.

Many of the current members will stay, but most of the department heads of the city and university will sit in on meetings on an as-needed basis, rather than serving as regular members, city Communications Director Susan Norton said. Current resident-at-large positions will be allowed to expire at their previously established dates, and a spot for a representative of the Graduate Student Congress likely will be added in the future.

Jacobs said over the years the committee has discerned which topics serve as the most productive and efficient conversations. The campus and the city have evolved since the committee's inception, so now's a good time for change, she said.

"I think the changes are positive for both the town and the gown in that we're a little more streamlined and can focus on a more strategic agenda of conversation," Jacobs said. "As an advisory body, it's good to find out potential flashpoints so we can make recommendations to both the chancellor and the mayor."

In the past, the committee has recommended closing Dickson and other streets near campus to cars to protect pedestrians, developed a plan to deal with game day traffic and made resources available to students living off campus about tenant rights and city code.

Other cities have found different ways to improve the relationship between government and university officials. The Princeton Review in August ranked Manhattan, Kan., and Kansas State University as having the best town and gown relations in the country.

There is not a formal town and gown committee there. Instead, city and university officials regularly work with each other on development of projects, road construction, public safety and other community issues, said Jared Wasinger, management assistant for the city manager.

Sales tax revenue generated by the university also goes into a separate fund, about $700,000 annually, to use for projects mutually beneficial to the university and city, Wasinger said.

"It's just something that's been really ingrained in the community," he said. "It's hard to pinpoint exactly how that comes about, but it's a great relationship."

Matthew Ramsey, a local resident representative, said the Fayetteville committee has forged relationships between corresponding departments. More importantly, the committee has moved into more social and cultural aspects, he said. Ramsey listed after-hours fights on Dickson Street, student-neighbor relationships and instilling a sense of place for out-of-town students as examples.

"I think now the committee can actually be focused on these bigger-picture issues," he said.

NW News on 11/20/2017