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Planners plan. Developers develop. Green spaces disappear. Established neighborhoods rebel. Growth gobbles. Things change. Best of times; worst of times. And, in Fayetteville, here we go again.

If my eyes could shoot daggers or I could breathe fire, the release of either would be aimed toward those who say, "Well, they're going to do it anyway. We can't stop it." Recently, for instance, the Fayetteville Planning Commission approved development plans for 144 acres known as Markham Hill, the location of Pratt Place Inn.

The voices of certainty have again chimed robotically, "Well, it was going to be developed someday." Really? Why? Is it inconceivable other uses might have emerged had other individuals or organizations known the property was to be sold? Is it not possible someone else might have seen the land for what it is, a unique natural area inside our city, and wanted to keep it that way? Did the University of Arkansas have a clue this sale was happening? We'll probably never know.

Specialized Real Estate Group, like any alert business with its nose to the winds of change, was on the spot when the moment came to buy this very specialized plum of real estate. In their process to develop, they have spent a lot of time and some money assuring and pacifying neighbors and Fayetteville residents that they're the good guys, the best ones who can turn this spectacular land into "the best development that could be put there." These rationalizations are repeated so often one can almost envision zombies marching down wooded trails on the 144 acres, mumbling the words, "Development good; pavement good; infill good; location good; gonna do it anyway; gonna do it anyway; blah, blah, blah."

Since the city has a planning staff and an appointed citizen planning commission to decide how and where things will be built according to a set development code, it's extra hard for residents to insert other considerations and values into the to-be-built environment. Not part of the planning are important issues like offsetting air pollutants, sequestrating carbon, lowering urban temperatures and reducing ultraviolet radiation from all these built streets and structures. Neither is a protected, interwoven urban forest. Consequently, many of the values people have for their neighborhoods are never considered, and there are no avenues open to residents for opposing what a private development wants to do, even if it will forever change nearby established owners' quality of life, their property values and the entire area's characteristics. Traffic volumes, drainage patterns, tree loss -- all that is just "Tough luck, Charlie" to neighbors.

Also developers are allowed to take large projects and divide approvals up into phases. Therefore the overall impact of a hundred acres of forest being brutalized over time is not discussed at the onset. For example, on Markham Hill, the woods will evolve into approximately 500 houses, a hotel, cabins, streets, parking lots, etc. Phasing in approvals piecemeal hides the eventual overall impacts.

Those opposed to the loss of most of this unique and historic part of Fayetteville have great hopes that the owners will be willing to sell the property to an individual or organization that will preserve it. Property owners are putting up "#Save Markham Hill" signs in hopes a wide show of support might lead the developers to do what many feel is in the best interest of the town. For information about a city meeting tonight, etc., on this issue:



• Tomorrow is the final deadline to get in statements asking the state for a permanent moratorium on allowing large- or medium-sized confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the Buffalo River watershed. (See my Dec. 10 article, The problem with poop, about this issue.) Surely we've learned our lesson about hog manure and water pollution by now, but just in case not enough has been said, please send your comments for the first time or yet again to:

This fight to save the Buffalo River again (hopefully forever) isn't over yet.

• Also, Jan. 31 is the deadline for orders to sponsor tree planting with the Compassion Fayetteville Tree Project ([email protected]) for $10 per tree or $50 each if you want to name your tree on a GIS location. Please see my Dec. 31 article, "A tree makes a difference," for more about this. You can choose bald cypress, black gum, chinkapin or red oak trees to help reforest Fayetteville.

Commentary on 01/21/2020

Print Headline: Sell Markham Hill

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