Sunday, June 1, 2008

Developers Campaign to Pressure Aldermen

It would be difficult to miss the full-page color campaign advertisement in today's Northwest Arkansas Times attempting to put political pressure on the Fayetteville City Council to ignore existing zoning ordinances, the objections of neighbors, the recommendation of the City's planning staff, and the considered vote of the Planning Commission. The ad says it is paid for by Partners for a Better Fayetteville, a fictitious front group that is not registered as a lobbying or political action committee and gets zero hits on Google. People who spend big money to influence public policy for personal financial gain need to register and disclose; otherwise, get yourself a free blog where you can be anonymously inconsequential.

Developer Clint McDonald wants to put 112,000 square feet (a football field is 48,000 square feet) of mini-storage units smack dab in the middle of a residential area, and he wants you to lobby the "Alderpersons" on his behalf so he can. He is proposing a mixed use development called Bridgedale Plaza, which might be fine, but the mega-storage business ain't. Oh, but he says the storage units are low-impact and environmentally-friendly. Right, about like putting lipstick on a pig.

I guess if Developer McDonald moved one of those formaldehyde-soaked FEMA trailers in next door to you, put it up on cinder blocks, and threw a solar panel on the roof for hot water, he would call that LEED-certified affordable housing and expect you to do a little dance of joy and thanksgiving.
You can find the zoning regulations on mini-storage units in Chapter 162, Unit 38 of the Unified Development Code, right between Mobile Homes (Unit 37) and Junk Yards (Unit 39).

Fayetteville Planning Commission denied approval for the project on March 24th. Three days later McDonald calls a meeting of developers, including Hank Broyles of Aspen Ridge fame, to have a bitch session at the Chamber of Cowbirds office to complain about the Planning Commission and the city planning staff. Mayor Coody was not at the meeting, but he told a reporter he agreed that the process can become a political game when it reaches the City Council if residents oppose such a project in their neighborhood. "But there is no way that should be laid off on staff," he added. Blame the City Council for that and everything else.

In late April,
Mayor Dan Coody changed his tune and suggested the possibility of changing how the city looks at the storage units. That seems to have given McDonald and the developers encouragement that they could bring pressure on the City Council to get their way. That political ad today wasn't cheap, and you can make sure it has some effect. Get in touch with your Aldermen before Tuesday and let them know if you want them to cave in to political pressure, ignore the objections of neighbors, discount the planning staff recommendation, overturn the Planning Commission, and roll over for the developers. Here's the link.

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