Save acres for vets
Now buy the land for the cemetery
Monday, December 21, 2009
LITTLE ROCK — LIKE WARM Arkansas Christmases, dry eyes after It’s a Wonderful Life, and little boys from the Natural State scribbling “LSU gear” on their annual wish lists, some things are just not meant to be. That’s the way it seems with the controversial student apartments that apparently won’t be built in south Fayetteville. You know, where Washington County’s historic livestock auction house operated until June.
A lawsuit that sought to override the city’s denial of a rezoning request seems to be kaput. Campus Crest developers of North Carolina wanted to buy the property from the auction house’s owner, Bill Joe Bartholomew, and build 200 apartments on the property. But the drawn-out legal ordeal surrounding this purchase became just too much to bear. Mr. Bartholomew now wants his suit dismissed.
The proposed sale to Campus Crest became a flashpoint for veterans and others last summer. They wanted to secure the site across Government Street from the city’s National Cemetery so they might preserve the sacred nature of that location. They basically argued that more student apartments in an overbuilt Fayetteville wasn’t an appropriate use of the land. They had a point. The former auction barn parcel does provide an ideally located space to enlarge this rapidly filling cemetery.
Fayetteville’s council denied Mr. Bartholomew’s request to rezone his property. The rezoning would have sealed the sale and enabled Campus Crest to purchase and develop the property. That’s when Mr. Bartholomew filed his suit against the city.
This latest development means thecorporation that oversees the cemetery’s operation, Congress, the national office of Veteran’s Affairs, and veterans’ organizations need to find a way to purchase this property. The space needs to be preserved and protected as a final resting place for our veterans in the decades to come.
Jim Buckner, a former military officer and a leader in the Arkansas division of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, fought valiantly to preserve this property for the cemetery and future fellow veterans. And while the corporation that manages operations for national cemeteries seems to favor expanding the graveyard in an entirely different direction, it needs to acquire these nine acres as well. Few will argue that every cemetery will only grow larger, especially as long as there are veterans.
Mr. Bartholomew, who’s left without a buyer, has earned a sale after everything he’s been through. He’s undoubtedly disappointed that he had to drop his legal challenge. But as everyone knows, any lawsuit can drag on and on with virtually no end in sight. And no potential buyer wants that much uncertainty.
No one can blame Mr. Bartholomew for wanting to sell his property. After all, it’s his property. Today, he shrugs and says he’s just going to “wait and see what happens.”
His bad luck in all this came solely because this sale barn that operated for 70 years happened to lie across the street from one of Arkansas’ three national cemeteries-and this one also happens to be running out of space. Those who both manage and patronize this cemetery now should work diligently to find a way to buy the property.
Editorial, Pages 14 on 12/21/2009