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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/MELISSA GUTE Attorney Bill Watkins speaks Tuesday on behalf of his client, Cindy Springs LLC, at the Bentonville Planning Commission meeting about its request to rezone 28 acres along John DeShield Boulevard. The meeting was moved from the Community Development Building to the Public Library to accommodate the crowd of about 170 people.

BENTONVILLE -- Land between Circle of Life Hospice and Memorial Park may not become home to Crystal Flats, but it will be open to medium- and high-density residential and commercial developments as the Planning Commission approved a rezoning Tuesday.

The site is about 28 acres along Northeast John DeShields Boulevard. Orchards Park is to the south and residential neighborhoods are to the north and northeast.

Commission action

Bentonville’s Planning Commission met Tuesday and approved:

• Final plat for Willowbrook Farms Subdivision phase two on Southwest Shell Road.

• Rezoning 708 Bella Vista Road from single family residential to downtown medium-density residential.

• Rezoning 1600 N.W. Third St. from agriculture to residential estate.

• Rezoning 1602 N.W. Third St. from agriculture to single family residential.

• Lot split at Northeast A and Northeast Seventh streets.

Source: Staff report

Commissioners approved 7-0 rezoning the land from an expired planned unit development to a mix of medium-density residential along the west and north boundaries, high-density residential on the east boundary and part of the south boundary and central commercial on most of the south boundary.

Cindy Springs LLC is the owner of the property. The company has the same post office box as Walton Enterprises.

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The vote came after a two-hour public hearing where commissioners heard from 47 people, both for and against the rezoning. There were more than 170 people in attendance. People stood two and three rows deep on the sides and in the back of the Walmart Community Room in the Public Library.

The public hearing was a civil battle of long-term city residents who mostly lived near the development expressing concern of increased traffic and incompatibility with surrounding areas that developments permitted under the new rezonings would bring versus young professionals, small-business owners and entrepreneurs arguing the rezoning was needed to provide affordable housing for the city's workforce near downtown.

"It's like you're trying to accommodate families who don't live here yet at the expense of families who already live here," said Ben Manning, a resident.

Manning said he opposed the the rezoning because there was no projection of growth in the traffic study that was done. He liked the idea, wasn't opposed to development, but the location wasn't suited for high density and commercial uses, he said.

"Traffic is bad everywhere," said Shane Miller, former resident of downtown who has moved out to the city's southwest corner. "It's the result of progress."

Having more housing near downtown would allow more people to walk and bike to work and entertainment, or at the very least, have shorter commutes to those places, he said, arguing it would decrease traffic, not increase it.

Miller, also a business owner, said many of his employees make between $10 to $15 per hour and can't afford to live in Bentonville so have to commute in, explaining more affordable housing in the city is needed.

A roundabout at Northeast J Street and John DeShields Boulevard will be built in conjunction with development, according to the planner's staff report.

Commissioners will vet any development proposal for the land through its development process where specifics regarding subdivision regulations including landscaping, screening, buffering and lighting are looked at.

The rezoning request came two months after commissioners failed to approve a planned unit development rezoning, which includes development plans in the rezoning request, at their Aug. 1 meeting. The development -- Crystal Flats -- included apartment buildings, townhouses and a core building with a variety of space for services, such as a cafe, fitness center and childcare facility.

Commissioners Tregg Brown, Jim Grider and Joe Haynie voted against it. Commissioner Scott Eccleston was absent, and Elaine Kerr replaced Greg Matteri since then.

More than 100 people showed up in opposition to the development at the August meeting.

Cindy Springs requested the rezoning so it could put the land in a position to sell, Bill Watkins, its legal representative, told commissioners Tuesday.

"Really, this is about the future," he said. "Continued growth in Bentonville is going to take place."

He encouraged commissioners to make their decision based on what would be the "highest and best use" of the land.

"If not this, what?" Watkins posed to commissioners twice Tuesday.

Commissioners had little discussion before voting. The rezoning will go to City Council for approval Tuesday.

NW News on 10/04/2017

Print Headline: Commission OKs 28-acre rezoning

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