Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The People Speak, Immediately Ignored

The City of Fayetteville yesterday released the 2007 Survey of Citizens, an overview of local public opinion about quality of life, strategies for managed growth, satisfaction with services provided by city government, and willingness to pay for various improvements.

The Northwest Arkansas Times news article about the survey was headlined "The People Speak." One of the things the people spoke about was the supply of six types of housing in Fayetteville (Table 31). In overwhelming agreement with the City Council's top priority, 79% of our citizens say Fayetteville has too few affordable housing units, and the second largest fraction of residents (70%) concluded that there is too little housing for first-time buyers in Fayetteville. Only 2% of the people surveyed said there were too many affordable housing units. However, 58% of respondents said there were too many apartments, while only 6% said there were too few apartments in Fayetteville.

Speaking up for the 6% of people who think we need more apartments in Fayetteville, the Northwest Arkansas Times editorial today slobbered over the possibility that developer Hank Broyles would now be building hundreds of student apartments at his "very public eyesore" known as Aspen Ridge. With no indication that it might be a paid advertisement, the editorial chuckled, "we can’t help thinking there might be a little money to be made in the student housing business," especially, they continued in the fundamental spirit of higher education at the flagship, "as close as it is to all those nifty UA athletic venues?" Great marketing support.

For those who are not so enthusiastic about the developer's get rich quick scheme and are more concerned about quality of life, greenspace, stormwater run off, and neighborhood integrity, there will be a public meeting this Saturday to talk about the plans for Aspen Ridge. Ward One and Town Branch Neighborhood residents will meet with Aldermen Brenda Thiel and Adella Gray at 10 a.m. on January 12 at the South Hill Avenue Church of Christ to ask questions and discuss alternatives. The developers are expected to attend.

It will be interesting to see if citizen opinion gets any more consideration from private developers and elected officials than it did from the editorial board of the Northwest Arkansas Times, which cavalierly dismissed the citizens' concerns when "there might be a little money to be made."

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