FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — Voters approved a $31 million bond issue back in April to fund a new cultural arts corridor and other projects. Now, some property owners are being asked to give a little more.
City officials are in the process of negotiating with owners of about 30 properties in a stretch of West Ave. to acquire around five feet of land on both sides of the street. This portion of the road includes the Fayetteville Public Library and Hillcrest Towers. The city’s payouts to property owners will depend on each individual situation.
“Primarily, the improvements are a pedestrian enhancement, streetscape improvements, street trees,” said Peter Nierengarten, the city’s environmental director. “You can’t make that level of improvement to streetscapes along our streets generally without some level of impact to the adjoining property owners, and we’re trying our darndest to be as sensitive to those impacts as possible.”
Nierengarten said people weren’t necessarily aware of this possibility when they voted through the April bond measure.
“This particular property acquisition wasn’t one of the specific details that were written into this bond language,” Nierengarten said.
Nierengarten said most people in the stretch are willing to negotiate in good faith and that easements are the direction of talks.
“Some of those property owners are very enthusiastic about the opportunity to improve the streetscape adjacent to their property,” Nierengarten said. “Others, the conversations are just a little more challenging and difficult.”
Fayetteville City Attorney Kit Williams said there’s not much a homeowner can do if he or she is against giving up their land for a public project. He said settling for a fair amount is the best outcome.
“We work very hard to try to be open-minded and fair with our property owners, but sometimes you just have to have that land,” Williams said. “You don’t have any option.”
Williams said the bond issue was so packed with information that it would be difficult to include every minute detail associated with the project, and the land acquisition wasn’t included for that reason. He said nothing can happen until the city council decides to approve.
“The city council can say, ‘You know, we’d really like to have wider sidewalks there and more right-of-way, and we realize it’s really tight right there, but we just don’t want to do it,'” Williams said. “‘If we’re gonna take somebody’s land, we don’t wanna do that.'”
Nierengarten said Fayetteville’s improvements have always required the acquisition of some private property, but everybody will benefit from the long-term benefits.