Thursday, June 12, 2014

Major project on Wedington on back burner


Deal Off For Fayetteville's Marinoni Property

Family To Seek Amendment To Master Street Plan

Posted: June 12, 2014 at 1:30 a.m.
FAYETTEVILLE-- An Alabama-based student housing developer is no longer under contract to buy land from Fayetteville's Marinoni family.
That means plans are off for a 702-bedroom, cottage-style development on about a quarter of the 108-acre pasture the Marinonis have owned southeast of Wedington Drive and Interstate 49 for more than six decades.
At A Glance
The Marinoni Property
The bulk of the 108 acres the Marinoni family owns southeast of Interstate 49 and Wedington Drive is zoned residential single-family — four units per acre. The City Council earlier this year rezoned about 19.6 acres on the northwest end of the property, closest to the Wedington Drive interchange. The new zoning permits the city’s most dense and intense development patterns, including large retail stores, restaurants or a hotel.
Source: Staff Report
The project was up for review by the Planning Commission later this month.
But Mary Sue Shaw, the eldest of seven Marinoni siblings, said Wednesday the specter of steep infrastructure costs, as recommended by planning staff, was enough to kill Capstone Collegiate Communities' plans for the land.
"Ultimately, we were not able to come to an agreement on who was paying for all the extra costs imposed on the project," Shaw said.
John Acken, Capstone's executive vice president, didn't return calls left on his cell phone Wednesday.
Nathan Streett, project manager with CEI Engineering Associates in Bentonville, requested in an email to Andrew Garner, city planning director, that the project be tabled indefinitely.
"We all recognize the development potential of this site, as well as the challenges that it poses," Streett said. "Someday I hope we can work through them."
Capstone initially proposed just one street connection via Wedington Drive to the 23-acre development.
Despite objection from the Marinonis and concern from residents living in neighborhoods to the east, city planning staff recommended developers connect to Sang Avenue via Berry Street and a new street that would go in south of Temple Shalom.
"By enhancing the street network, it would have distributed that traffic a little bit better," Jeremy Pate, Development Services director, said Wednesday.
Planning staff also recommended widening and adding a westbound left turn lane on Wedington Drive and installing traffic calming devices on Ora Drive, Lonnie Avenue and Berry Street.
City planners at one point suggested Capstone share in the cost of a new traffic signal at the Lonnie Avenue/Porter Road intersection on Wedington. They later backed off the suggestion, noting the large amount of other off-site improvement that could be required.
"We debated internally a lot about street improvements for this property," Pate said.
The street connections to Sang Avenue in particular riled neighbors living in the Sang Valley, University Heights and Waterman Woods neighborhoods who didn't want 700 students driving up and down narrow, residential streets to get to the University of Arkansas campus.
"It wasn't the right development for that area," said Donna Daniels, who lives just east of the Marinoni property on Loren Circle. "There was going to be too much impact on the infrastructure."
Paula Marinoni said Wednesday her family will seek an amendment to the city's street plan, a City Council approved guide for future street connections in town. The plan clearly identifies a street running from the Marinoni property, south of Temple Shalom, to Sang Avenue. It also shows a bridge that would one day be built over I-49 connecting the west side of the Marinoni land to Persimmon Street, where it ends at Shiloh Drive.
"We want to be able to develop our property," Marinoni said. "This is going to be an intensely developed property. That's what it needs to be."
"There is going to be a lot of traffic, so we need to figure out now how it's going to be handled," she added. "This is an opportunity to sit down with the city and neighbors. And we need to come to some agreement about what's going to happen."
Pate said the street connections, as proposed, are aimed at reducing congestion at the Wedington Drive interchange. The bridge over the interstate at Persimmon Street would give parents living east of I-49 an alternate way to get to Owl Creek School or the Fayetteville Boys & Girls Club, he explained. If commercial development goes in as expected on the remainder of the Marinoni land, additional connections on Sang Avenue will give neighbors a way to get to the development without having to access Wedington.
Alan Long, Ward 4 alderman who lives at Sang Avenue and Archer Drive, said removing the street connections from the street plan wouldn't completely alleviate his concerns.
Part of the problem with Capstone's project was the sheer size and type of development proposed, Long said.
"I don't think student housing is the best use for that property," he said.
Long said he would be more inclined to support development that draws traffic from I-49 and Wedington -- "something that's not going to put the neighborhoods as basically the middleman between that development and the university."
Marinoni has said the Capstone project was the residential piece needed to make other commercial areas on her family's property viable.
"We're truly disappointed," her sister, Shaw, said. "But we'll have to be a little more patient and see what else comes along."
NW News on 06/12/2014