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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/MELISSA GUTE Attorney Bill Watkins, left, speaks on behalf of Cindy Springs LLC during the Bentonville City Council meeting Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. Council approved to rezone 28 acres along Northeast John DeShields Boulevard on the request of Cindy Springs LLC, the land owner. The rezoning saw support and opposition from city residents.

BENTONVILLE -- The City Council upheld the Planning Commission's approval to rezone 28 acres along Northeast John DeShields Boulevard allowing medium- and high-density residential developments as well as commercial projects.

While commissioners were unanimous in their vote at their Oct. 3 meeting, the council approved the rezoning 5-2 Tuesday. Ward 1 council member Stephanie Orman and Ward 4 council member Octavio Sanchez voted against the rezoning. Ward 4 council member Jim Webb was absent.

Council Action

Bentonville City Council met Tuesday and approved:

• Spending $90,000 so the Police Department could buy two patrol Chevrolet Tahoes and the gear to equip them.

• Accepting Arkansas Electric Company’s $25,290 bid for underground wire for the Electric Department.

• General Construction Solution’s $139,415 bid for the Citizens Park pavilion project.

Source: Staff Report

Land owner Cindy Springs LLC requested rezoning the land to central commercial fronting Northeast John DeShields Boulevard with medium-density residential to the north and west and high-density residential surrounding it to the north and east.

Cindy Springs has the same post office box as Walton Enterprises.

Bill Watkins, attorney representing the land owner, said his client wants to rezone the land to position it for sale and there was no project planned.

"My client is not the developer and will not be the developer," he said.

Twenty-one of the nearly 50 people who attended Tuesday's meeting tried to persuade the council either the rezoning was good for the city's growth and would provide more affordable housing for the workforce population or the zonings would allow for too-dense developments, which would cause safety and traffic issues near senior citizen homes and Memorial Park.

Debra Layton, interim director of the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke on the behalf of businesses, telling council members the area's continued economic growth and businesses' ability to recruit and retain talented employees depends on the availability of housing options within their price range.

"It is a challenge for us," she said, adding 43 percent of those who commute into Bentonville for work each day do so from more than 10 miles away.

A few landowners expressed concern that the difficulty of this rezoning may be ominous to property owner rights since there's been so much opposition even though city land use plans call for the area to be mixed use.

"I hope it gives stability to the people who invest here," said Josh Kyles, city resident, landowner and developer, arguing in favor of the rezoning. "Where it doesn't become one of those cities we've all heard about...where you never knew which direction the wind was going to blow because of who showed up that night and voiced the loudest opinion."

Neal Krause, resident in a neighborhood south of the discussed land, said he wasn't opposed to development at the location but was opposed to the size permitted under the new zonings.

A development shouldn't be large enough that it would distract and divide the neighborhoods north and south of Northeast John DeShields Boulevard or Memorial Park to Amazeum and Crystal Bridges, he said.

"It should blend all these things together seamlessly in a way that makes it harmonious for us all to live in this area and for the rest of the city to enjoy," he said.

John Douglas, 81-year-old resident at Legacy Village just west of the land, also said he wasn't opposed to the land being developed, but the proposed zonings would bring in developments too dense for the area.

He said the average age of a Legacy Village resident is 82 and many still drive.

"We're scared, really, for driving," Douglas said, saying dense developments next door would make traffic worse. "Nothing terrifies me more than hitting some kid in the street. It's just not the right place for this."

Of those who spoke, 13 were in favor of the rezoning and eight opposed it.

The crowd Tuesday was about a third of the size that showed up at the Planning Commission meeting Oct. 3. Commissioners heard from 47 people over nearly two hours where there were more than 170 people in attendance.

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 child care facility.

NW News on 10/11/2017

Print Headline: Council approves contentious rezoning

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