Several development extensions were approved by the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority’s Real Estate Review Committee Thursday, but land use issues with property in the Warehouse District and land set aside for the Fort Smith Public School District could be back on the table at some point.
Although the Warehouse District has been promoted for retail development, a developer has his eye on a large piece of property there to develop as “warehouse condos,” or storage for cars, RVs, boats and other large items.
Quentin Willard, founder of Fort Smith Brewing Company, and John Coates of JKC Cellars, a winery in development in the Warehouse District, reminded the committee that area had been designated as development for retail, and foot traffic is needed for those types of businesses to succeed.
Willard told the committee the area would be better used for a park, and parking areas, to hold events and allow for more parking spaces to future retail areas.
“We want to see more breweries and retail come out here,” Willard said. “We’re not doing it to make money fast but it’s the right thing to do … Whenever we met with you a couple years ago, it was explained to me the area would be used for retail, restaurants … and that’s one of the reasons we invested in the property out here.”
Coats said he was also under the impression the Warehouse District was being promoted as an area for retail. Johnny Jones of J.S. Jones Enterprises had sought more than 2 acres of property across from the brewery and Old Fort Furniture for the nonretail development.
Galen Hunter, chairman of the committee, noted the issue was placed on the agenda as a review for Jones and Willard to discuss the matter and he hoped more discussions would come from it outside of the board room.
Another discussion Thursday with a high-profile piece of land at Chaffee Crossing concerned 18 acres of land that is set aside for the Fort Smith Public School District until 2021. Fifteen acres sits between two pieces of property currently owned by ERC Properties.
Rod Coleman of ERC Create LLC, put in a first right of refusal request for a “rough” southern portion of the 71 acres of land and a thin 3-acre section for access to it in the event the school district does not develop it. The school district was given the land in 2011 with a 10-year time limit to develop it.
“This piece of property at this point is rough to deal with, but it is going to become unusable if we don’t get an access,” Coleman said. “I understand the school system has the option… I hope there are seven schools out there. But if they decide not to, then I’d like the first right of refusal so we can get out. It’s in my best interest but it’s also in yours.”
Coleman noted that 15 acres of the property had many water, gas and petroleum lines on it, as well as a steep drop in elevation. And he wanted to see the Chaffee Trust be able to sell the property if the school system did not use it. Hunter noted that the school system has expressed concern that the acreage would be "tough to build on."
Although Committee Member Janie Glover was in favor of offering Coleman first right of refusal, Pat McCollom wanted to confer with other committee members on the issue. Only Glover, McCollom and Hunter were present Thursday. Coleman's request was denied.
One-year development extensions were granted to Gary Edwards to complete construction on 2.3 acres, R.U.M. Inc. to complete construction on 38.8 acres, to SHR Chaffee Crossing Investments LLC to begin construction on 20 acres and 46.2 acres and to Chaffee Crossing Real Estate Inc. to begin construction on 90 acres.