story by Aric Mitchell
“Come and get me.”
Those were the words streaming from a ghostly presence at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA). The challenge comes from Friday night’s broadcast of Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel, which was previewed at the beginning of Thursday’s meeting.
The network’s highest rated series visited Chaffee Crossing in July and will air the episode Friday (Nov. 19) at 8 p.m. But while the series will be focusing on the colorful — and some say haunted — past of Fort Chaffee, board members were more concerned with the future.
One major issue discussed at the meeting was phase development. No actions were taken, but FCRA Executive Director Ivy Owen promised December’s meeting would bring a full presentation from an undisclosed developer, who has expressed a desire in purchasing and developing 300 acres of Chaffee Crossing west along Wells Lake Road for both commercial and residential purposes.
The ideas discussed at the November meeting included building two schools (including a high school) as anchors to the acreage and adding a Fort Smith Public Library extension at the opposing end. The 300 acres in between would be used for the development of retail, recreational, and living areas.
In other business, the Chaffee Barbershop will go before the Arkansas Heritage Foundation on Dec. 1 for consideration of being added to the National Register of Historic Places.
“We are confident this will happen,” Owen told those in attendance. “Once again, another ‘first’ for Chaffee Crossing and an accomplishment due to the great work of Joey Chasteen and Stephanie Malone,” who jumped through the hurdles required to warrant consideration, the Executive Director noted.
Moving toward the end of the year, the FCRA promises further developments for tourists and residents alike, including a photo journal from Stan Kujawa similar to the ones he created for the National Historic Site, Trolley Museum, and Miss Laura’s. The extensive illustrated guide promises to be compiled by the end of the year, and will be sold at Chaffee Crossing and from Kujawa’s website.
Completion is also expected on the McClure Amphitheater renovation by Dec. 31.
“There are so many opportunities using the amphitheater and I am looking forward to seeing it to its completion and in use for the spring of 2011,” Owen said.
Another improvement that will have to wait for 2011 is Chaffee Crossing’s 501(c) (3) status. The articles of incorporation had arrived prior to the November meeting, but they have not been completed. After submission, Owen confessed, it takes “three or four months” to receive approval from the state. If all goes to plan, Chaffee Crossing should receive tax-exempt status and become eligible for accepting donations and grant monies available to non-profit organizations by early or late spring 2011.
Fort Smith businesses and residents can also expect the addition of three interchanges off Interstate 49. Forsgren Construction will handle the project, which is estimated at $14.6 million. The interchanges will go in at Roberts, Custer, and Massard along I-49, according to Owen.
“This represents the last work needed before paving the stretch between Highway 22 and Howard Hill Road,” Owen said. “This is the result of much work and diligence of federal and state officials and is well ahead of the expected construction schedule.”
Action items on the docket included the conveyance of water lines to the City of Fort Smith; a 48” water line easement through Chaffee Crossing; an ingress/egress easement allowing the City of Fort Smith access along Massard Road and I-49; and proposed land use changes to the Chaffee Crossing area.
The first item passed without opposition. Conveyance of water lines to the City of Fort Smith “represents about three years of work with the utility department ... and the FCRA staff,” Owen said. “The city will now own the lines and will be responsible for maintenance and upkeep.”
The second item was tabled due to a problem with the location of one of the easements as it ran along I-49. The line is expected to provide water to the area for years to come, but first readjustments will have to be made with Fort Smith. Owen promised the action item would be redrawn and brought before the board at a later date.
The ingress/egress easement for the Rye Hill sewer line proposal is to give access to Fort Smith for maintaining the sewer line at Massard Road along I-49. While the proposal passed without opposition, City of Barling Administrator Ray Caruthers voiced his concerns about the waste water emptying out at his city’s lagoons.
“We don’t have any agreement with Fort Smith for that. I want it understood that it may be in the works, but there is no such agreement. We are doing a lot of work over on the lagoons now, and we’re looking at reducing our cost for operation ... and we have a lot of things going on over there currently with our engineering firm. Anything going on needs to be coordinated through them. I’m concerned about the capacity of the lagoons. I want to make sure all these pieces fit together.”
Citing future industrial development, Caruthers also asked that no land use changes be made to the area surrounding the Barling lagoons.
FCRA Board Members agreed to the request before passing through the following changes:
• Change 80 acres south of golf course to industrial and office;
• Change 85 acres west of golf course to industrial and office;
• Change 77 acres to mixed use — industrial and office — and realign the bike trail to run on the north side of the city limit line and turn south on west side of Chad Colley; and,
• Change 32 acres east of the Fort Smith Landfill to residential while retaining the 40-acre plot which includes a lake (similar to the area surrounding Carol Ann Cross Park).
The next board meeting of the FCRA will be Dec. 16 at 3:30 p.m.