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story.lead_photo.caption File Photo/NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK Willow Heights public housing complex, at 10 S. Willow Ave., in Fayetteville

FAYETTEVILLE -- Solving flooding issues at a public housing complex near downtown is feasible, it's just a matter of honing community resources and covering the costs, according to a university professor.

The Housing Authority Board on Thursday got a presentation on water issues at Willow Heights, 10 S. Willow Ave., from Marty Matlock, professor of ecological engineering at the University of Arkansas. Matlock made the appearance at the request of the university's Community Design Center, which is working on a livability improvement plan for the site.

Next meeting

When: 6 p.m. March 22

Where: Room 111, City Hall, 113 W. Mountain St.

Source: Staff Report

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The plan, made possible through a $25,000 grant with the Endeavor Foundation of Springdale, will look at how building frontages and landscape features interact with functional problems such as walkability, flooding and Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Thursday's presentation on flooding was part of that program.

A significant amount of runoff comes from development on Mount Sequoyah east of Willow Heights and drains southwest toward Rock Street, Matlock said. Water flows down stairwells and through the complex.

Building a bioswale to direct the flow curbside would require gravel, backhoe operation and a perforated pipe. Matlock estimated the cost at $20,000.

Runoff from Mount Sequoyah could be alleviated through collaboration with landowners and community members, he said. Many of the city's regulations on storm water likely weren't in place when Willow Heights was built in the 1970s, he said.

Executive Director Deniece Smiley said the area has had sewer line issues. Matlock said he wasn't sure how the sewer lines are mapped or if the city has any responsibility in their maintenance. However, storm water intrusion hurts everyone in a community and likely would get the attention of city engineers, he said.

"It's worth a conversation," Matlock said.

The board also unanimously extended for one year the contract under which the Willow Heights property is set to be sold. Prospective buyer Vlad Tatter said the updated agreement is the same as the original arrangement, just with the time extension. The board agreed to the original contract a year ago. Closing on the deal wouldn't happen for several years.

The plan to sell Willow Heights for $1.25 million and move residents to an expansion of Morgan Manor, 324 E. 12th Place, caught a significant amount of public attention. Critics questioned the board's motivation while Housing Authority officials maintained the proposal stemmed from waning federal money and Willow Heights' state of disrepair.

Commissioner Melissa Terry, who led the effort against the proposal before gaining a spot on the board, said she supported keeping the potential sale among a variety of options. The study from Community Design Center will help the board make informed decisions on what to do with the property, she said.

"I have no problem with extending the contract as is," Terry said. "Really, what we're looking at from a public policy point of view, is that the policy window is opening a little wider. That doesn't mean that other things need to be out of that space."

NW News on 03/02/2018

Print Headline: Housing Authority looks at flooding issues

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