The story below was published Saturday. At the monthly meeting of the RNCIC at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, a copy of it was passed around by the only RNCIC members who appeared to know about it before it hit the press. Notice that the RNCIC release did not say that the group does not OPPOSE the building of multistory buildings across narrow South Dunn Avenue from the cemetery. It just claims that the RNCIC wants to continue its slow process of buying existing small homes on S. Hill Avenue while eliminating them from Fayetteville's limited supply of affordable housing for working people.
I have long been amazed that two or three members of RNCIC have expressed enthusiasm for buying up those homes and pushing low-income workers' families further from the work places. I do realize that not everyone understands the importance of protecting the Beaver Lake watershed and the groundwater by keeping the rich, dark prairie soil in such karst wetland areas as exist around the northern edge of the sale-barn property and the existing Natonal Cemetery property. Relatively few people understood when we brought up the facts about the seasonal wetland over karst bedrock on the 30-acre Aspen Ridge site. Far too many who recognize the geographic and geological facts of Fayetteville say that wetland is "only an engineering problem." Far too many people simply don't care.
I wasn't surprised by the RNCIC comments to the newspaper or by the opposite comments by other veterans. However, the only reason I expected something of the sort to occur today was that I had talked with a developer's representative the day of the veterans' meeting with Senator Pryor at the National Cemetery and was told of the developers' intention to continue to try to dissuade opponents of the rezoning and the possibility of multistory buildings going in there. I assured the man that I would not be dissuaded from opposition to ANY incompatible project next to the National Cemetery or close to the Oak Cemetery in adjacent to the neighborhood I already loved and appreciated when I decided to buy a home there nearly 15 years ago. I saw the National Cemetery as a very important asset to our neighborhood long before I decided to move into the area.
Some weeks after speaking with the developer's lawyer at the cemetery, three neighborhood representatives who live south of the National Cemetery and the Washington County Livestock Auction property and I met with the same young lawyer at the city library and heard only a discussion of what he considered the merits of the project he was promoting for the North Carolina company he works for without a hint of remorse for what such a project might do to the neighborhood and the cemetery during its construction and after completion. We assured him that we would remain adamantly opposed to rezoning the property in any way that would allow dense development or construction of multistory buildings.
Sometime later, one of my neighbors at that meeting had another occasion to speak with the developer and was told that he would be meeting with the secretary and the president of RNCIC. My neighbor was not invited to attend that meeting. Something about dividing and conquering your opponents, it appears. The husband-wife team of officers and whoever else may have met with the young lawyer/developer's representative did not communicate anything about that meeting to me or some of the other 7 members of RNCIC who attended today's meeting. The president and secretary of RNCIC did not attend Saturday's RNCIC meeting, which was chaired by the vice president of the organization, who asked the group to agree that they were finished with fighting the sale-barn rezoning.
The vice president of RNCIC, Ron Butler, has attended and spoken against the rezoning and incompatible uses at all the Town Branch neighborhood and Ward One meetings and planning commission meetings and a couple of the several City Council meetings where this issue has been discussed. Harold Crivello, treasurer of the RNCIC, and a few other RNCIC members and many veterans who have contributed to RNCIC directly or through their various groups such as DAV, VFW, American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart and others spoke nobly and eloquently against the rezoning and dense development next to the National Cemetery at several city meetings.
After Crivello presented his treasurer's report for the month, the vice president reported that a real-estate agent (I think he described the person as a woman and as a REALTOR, had donated $465 to RNCIC and promised to challenge other real-estate companies in Northwest Arkansas to match her donation. Thanks to that person, identified at the meeting only as representing KWCares in Arkansas.
The charity's Facebook page says that "KW Cares is a 501(c)(3) public charity created to support Keller Williams Realty associates and their immediate families with hardship as a result of a sudden emergency. Hardship is defined as a difficult circumstance that a person or family cannot handle without outside help.
The charity is the heart of Keller Williams Realty culture in action – finding and serving the higher purpose of business through charitable giving in the market centers and communities where our agents live and work."
KW's donation is the kind of corporate generosity that the National Cemetery fund-raising effort must have to secure the old sale barn property. It will take months for Senator Pryor, Senator Lincoln and Congressman Boozman to have a chance to fulfill their firm promises directly to me and other veterans that they will work together to secure federal funding for the purchase.
Apparently, KW Cares agrees with the overwhelming majority of fellow veterans I have talked with and with all my fellow residents of the Town Branch Neighborhood that the threat of apartments or anything being built on the sale-barn land is an emergency. The most common comment from people I ask for an opinion on the proposed rezoning that would allow apartments there is "I think the veterans ought to get it."
Sorry I wasn't asked to comment as a neighborhood coordinator on the content of the news release provided by a couple or two or three officers of the RNCIC to the newspapers. I guess the reporter forgot that this proposal affects a neighborhood as well as the people who have fought in our nation's many wars while others stayed safely at home and those who served loyally but never faced the enemy in combat.
The Morning News
Local News for Northwest Arkansas
Regional Military Cemetery Association Not Focused On Sale Barn Property
By Skip Descant
THE MORNING NEWS
FAYETTEVILLE — A nonprofit veterans group charged with acquiring property for cemetery expansion has separated itself from the debate to rezone the Washington County Sale and Livestock Barn.
The Regional National Cemetery Improvement Corporation will continue to focus its efforts toward purchasing lots along Hill Avenue for the expansion of the Fayetteville National Cemetery. Purchasing the sale barn site is not on its radar, the corporation said in a statement released this week.
"Considering the estimated multimillion dollar purchase price for the sale barn properties, the RNCIC has determined that purchase of that property by the RNCIC would not be feasible, unless we received several large donations from the private sector, or specific federal government land purchases," according to the statement. "None of these options appear promising at this time."
A need for more cemetery land has been one argument by veterans groups opposed to a rezoning of the sale barn site. Campus Crest, a university housing developer wants to purchase the property as a location for student apartments. The Fayetteville City Council is set to make the rezoning decision at Tuesday's meeting.
Jim Buckner, a retired lieutenant colonel representing the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and one of the leaders behind a proposal to purchase a 3-acre section of the sale barn site, said his group remains committed to the idea of eventually purchasing the property if the rezoning is denied.
"We're both trying to do the same thing, and that's expand the cemetery," Buckner said Friday.
"Our zeal hasn't wavered at all," said Sam Sansom, of West Fork, and president of the Military Officers Association of America. "Our goal is still to acquire that existing 3-acre property."
"There's nothing wrong with coming from two fronts," Sansom added. "I applaud the actions of the RNCIC. They have been the cornerstone of cemetery expansion."
"If the rezoning goes through, the fallback will be to return to the successful efforts of the RNCIC," Sansom said.
Fayetteville City Council
When: 6 p.m., Tuesday
Where: City Hall, 113 W. Mountain St.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2009
Old Soldiers Never Lie...
Unless it is convenient. We have been hearing for months now, rather rudely at times, that the proposed rezoning of the former Sale Barn property and the possible construction of an apartment complex for students is not only an affront to veterans but also the last insult to fallen heroes who will have nowhere to be buried in the Fayetteville National Cemetery. This line has been proffered most aggressively by Jim Buckner, a retired lieutenant colonel who has wrapped himself with the mantle of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and rudely made threatening remarks at City Council meetings, and by Aubrey Shepherd on his aubunique blog.
This week, we learn from articles in the Fayetteville Flyer and the Morning News, that it ain't so. The Regional National Cemetery Inprovement Corporation, which has since 1984 acquired 23 parcels of land to expand the burial ground, says they are sticking with the plan to purchase an additional 15 parcels to the west between Government Avenue and Hill Street whenever they can raise an additional $1.3 million. What effect will the political meddling of the rival group have on this group and its 25-years of hard work and dedication to raise donations for expansion? Milo Cumpston must be looking down and shaking his head, wondering where Buckner and Shepherd were during previous fundraising efforts.
There are lots of reasons not to rezone the neighborhood, and there are good arguments against building another apartment complex. It is sad that some chose a shady tactic that ignored the long and legitimate efforts by the RNCIC to expand the Fayetteville National Cemetery and took cheap shorts at college students by calling them unworthy neighbors.
Posted by Lessie at Saturday, September 12, 2009
Uncle Walt said...
i like the Aubunique blog and the great pics, but until Shepherd adjusts his settings to reduce the number number of posts displayed, no one can read it anyway. It takes too long to load, and I give up waiting.
September 12, 2009 12:20 PM
Uncle Walt, for you and others who may have the same trouble, I just got on this blog (The Fayettevillage Voice) for the first time today, read your post, and have reduced the number of posts displayed on aubunique from 50 to 10. Also, a few weeks ago my picasa by Google blog storage of 1 gig filled and I started using my flickr site to post photos and then link to my 40-plus blogspots. That uses almost no memory when loading the blog and I am already paying for unlimited storage on Flickr.
It often costs me an extra hour to get a photo on the blog because it takes a few easy steps to do it and I am often drawn to other issues and chores and put it off.
I hope it encourages you to check out aubreyshepherd.blogspot.com (aka aubunique) more often. By the way, I had the setting at 500 posts at one time, which allowed people who could open it to easily go back a month or more without using the nearly invisible OLDER POSTS live link at the bottom of the blog.
I gradually reduced my setting to 50 over a period of months and it was working for a lot of people with the best internet connections and I had no trouble with it on my ATT DSL. But thanks for the advice.
September 12, 2009 5:00 PM
On the main points of this thread:
There was no THREAT of three-story buildings being built overshadowing the National Cemetery that I knew of until an alderman called in late February or early March asking me to set up a neighborhood meeting to hear a proposal from developers at the request of a local lawyer who at this point is apparently no longer associated with the project. Because of an occasional but repeated complaint over the past decade or whatever, the alderman seemed to be expecting the neighbors would be glad to see the Washington County Livestock Auction disappear. It turned out that the majority who "turned out" for the meeting said they LIKE the sale barn and hoped it would not close.
Living at the south end of the 30-acre environmental disaster originally known as Aspen Ridge condos or townhouses, I knew that the sale barn wouldn't be the big concern. The big concern for the majority of the neighbors on the sale-barn side (eastern portion) of the Town Branch neighborhood was the proposal to rezone for student apartments. Even those who rarely ventured to S. Hill Avenue and S. Duncan Avenue, the streets most affected by the Aspen Ridge/Hill Place project knew they didn't want more of the same construction noise, dust, debris, mud and speeding, uncovered dump trucks in their area. And they ALL agreed that Fayetteville didn't need more apartments whether for students or for anyone. The neighborhood is mostly single-family homes with a few duplexes and one small one-story building smaller than thousands of houses in Fayetteville that contained tiny apartments. Everything in the neighborhood could be bought or rented on a working person's pay.
I'll stop now and write more later. Don't need to further build my bad rap for too many words in one space!
September 12, 2009 5:15 PM
Sorry for my disjointed style and failure to proofread the previous post. I'll edit before I post my comments when I return to this later. Meanwhile, maybe someone will review some of this week's photos on aubunique. I really would prefer never to write about or photograph such issues as bad development. I love showing what is beautiful and good about Fayetteville and try to intersperse the two even on days when most of the events I witness are negative.
September 12, 2009 5:21 PM
Please visit my comments on the news article and on the RNCIC meeting on Saturday by visiting http://aubreyshepherd.blogspot.com (use Lessie's link to it at right if you don't want to copy and paste). And please comment both there and here. Maybe later I'll try to edit the previous posts so that they come closer to making sense!