Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Scrutinizing SouthPass

Earlier this month, a reader on this blog commented, "Jonah - how about writing something on Southpass and why such a huge and costly development is being undertaken during economically unstable times. How much is the City obligating us for in terms of maintenance down the pike?" I don't know the answer to either question, but the proposed SouthPass development and park are worthy topics for community discussion, and the comment section here is as good a place as any.

We've been at this since 1999, when park planners and citizens began discussions that resulted in the 2002 Parks and Recreation 10-Year Master Plan. Under the category of facility priorities developed in that process, a multi-sports complex with field sports was the number one priority followed by a city/regional trail network at number two. In 2004, the City issued a
request for proposals intended to secure 200 acres for development as a community park without the city having to acquire the land, and that September the Council passed resolution authorizing Mayor Coody to negotiate with SouthPass Development Company to accept 200 acres of park land and $1 million for park land development in consideration for the city’s acceptance of and responsibility for a former 32-acre landfill on the property. The first public forum on the developers' plans was held in January 2005, almost three years ago. In November 2006, developers John Nock and Richard Alexander brought in Urban Design Associates and LaQuatra Bonci Associates to seek more citizen input and finalize the design plans. They presented that vision in March 2007.

The Parks and Recreation Board approved and accepted the proposal on May 29 of this year. Now we are told that "
Fayetteville’s community park — a 400-acre wonder combining soccer, baseball, softball, biking and hiking trails, a water feature, pocket parks, dog park, conservation areas and two amphitheaters — could be started in the spring of 2008, depending on approval of the master concept for a planned zoning district." An editorial in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette accepts the new 400-acre claim and praises the project. "And, yes, this whole, 400-acre Frederick Law Olmsted dream could take years to complete. But at least Fayetteville is getting started—and not just talking about getting started. Someday. If all goes as planned, or close to as planned, this regional park could have a statewide impact."

Adam Wallworth of the Northwest Arkansas Times has provided consistent coverage of SouthPass issues as they have developed from the beginning. There was some discussion about this enterprise on Urban Planet back in November 2005. PARB member Valarie Biendara had a supportive entry on her blog this March, but drew no reader comments. I'm inclined to think that the proposed SouthPass development and park is a good deal for Fayetteville.
What do you think?

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