Thursday, June 25, 2009

Issac Caudle, prisoner of war in Germany during WWII, wants cemetery expanded across sale-barn property

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Veterans seek one year to raise funds
BY ROBIN MERO Northwest Arkansas Times
Posted on Thursday, June 25, 2009
URL: http://www.nwanews.com/nwat/News/77634/
State Sen. Sue Madison joined military veterans Wednesday at the Fayetteville National Cemetery to implore the public to attend a July 7 City Council meeting and object to nearby property being rezoned for apartment development.
"Anyone who has been to a service here was deeply moved by the sanctity of the place. This is a quiet, tranquil part of town, and I think that atmosphere needs to be preserved. A multistory apartment complex would be very incompatible - and tragic. We have enough apartments in Fayetteville already," Madison said. Her father is a retired lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Army, she said.
Madison said she spoke to the veterans affairs liaison for U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln about finding stimulus funds for the purchase.
"He was very receptive to the idea," she said.
Veterans said they need one year to raise at least $2 million - preferably $4 million - to purchase the 9 acres that comprise the old Washington County Sale Barn property. After more than 70 years selling livestock, the barn's final sale is today, and owner Billy Joe Bartholomew said he will close the business. He has a contract with Campus Crest LLC of North Carolina to buy the land and build apartments geared toward university students.
The argument of neighbors and veterans is twofold: The land is needed for cemetery expansion, and apartments are a bad idea.
"Students are the worst kind of neighbor you can have," said Jim Buckner, senior vice commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Arkansas. "In 2023, this cemetery will be filled, and the only way we can expand enough to take us up to the end of this century is to acquire this property."
Buckner said he's guessing at the sale price being around $2 million, since neither Bartholomew or Campus Crest have revealed the contract price.
Veterans have raised $2,475 in private donations toward the purchase, Ron Butler of the Regional National Cemetery Improvement Corporation said. The RNCIC has nonprofit status to collect and hold the funds.
The morning press conference was held outside cemetery property to avoid the appearance of cemetery officials taking a position, and Cemetery Director Gloria Bailey was not present.
The city's Planning Commission recommended the rezoning be approved. The City Council tabled the request June 16, and it was moved to the July 7 agenda. The rezoning request, Downtown General, is a downzoning from the current heavy commercial/light industrial zoning. The land is located south of Martin Luther King Boulevard and west of School Avenue, directly across Government Avenue from the cemetery.
Andy Aldridge, Campus Crest representative, said Wednesday that the company made an offer to the Bartholomew family to purchase the sale barn property, which is now a binding contract between a buyer and a seller contingent upon approval of the rezoning.
"Campus Crest does not enter lightly into a contract such as this and fully plans to honor its commitment to the Bartholomew family and the community of Fayetteville," Aldridge said. "Throughout this process, Campus Crest has worked very hard to listen and understand the concerns of the neighbors in the area. And, we plan to continue the same level of community involvement and awareness."
Bartholomew has said veterans never approached him about buying the land until after the contract was entered. He said wishes he could afford to give the land to the cemetery but he needs to sell, he told the Planning Commission in May.
The July 7 City Council meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the City Administration Building, Room 219, 113 W. Mountain St.
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