The once-quaint town of Greenwood has morphed into a thriving small city situated along U.S. 71. If city officials get their way, Greenwood could soon be growing beyond its current borders.
Sonny Bell, Greenwood’s director of Planning and Community Development, said the city is ready to explore extending the city limits to more rural parts of Sebastian County.
"This has been being talked about for many years," he said. "It goes back before my time with the city, as far as expanding the city limits out to some of our planning jurisdiction land."
Any decision pursuing annexation rests with a committee scheduled to meet on March 28. The group will include a cross-section of the Greenwood community, according Bell.
"We are putting together an annexation committee with representatives from the school, the financial (sector) of Greenwood and people who have expertise in annexation," he said. "It's what they feel like would be in the best interest of Greenwood."
As far as where that could extend the city's borders, Bell said he was not entirely sure.
He said he expects the group to explore annexing land west toward Hackett, south toward Highway 10 and possibly north up to Jenny Lind.
But any plans to go further north of Jenny Lind would be unlikely, according to Fort Smith City Administrator Ray Gosack.
"The two communities many years ago had discussions on how far each would grow and it was generally recognized that Greenwood would grow to the Jenny Lind/Bear Hollow Road area and Fort Smith would grow to the areas north of there," he said, adding that Fort Smith currently serves as the water utility for the area.
In order to ensure that Greenwood does not encroach on property belonging to another municipality, or is in breach of previous agreements, Bell said there will be a thorough review of any proposed annex by a lawyer.
"We would lean on our legal counsel for those kinds of answers," he said. "That's one of the questions we'll be asking — how does this process work, what happens if and what is plan A, plan B and all of that."
Another issue that will have to be addressed if Greenwood pursues annexation is whether the city is able to provide police and fire protection to areas served by Sebastian County. It is not only about whether the city could provide the protection, but how much providing the protection would cost taxpayers, Bell said.
"Would there necessarily be a need for additional officers? What about fire departments? These areas have rural fire departments that are very good organizations. Would they carry on or be incorporated into the Greenwood Fire Department?"
Sebastian County Judge David Hudson said it is too early to tell how the annexation would affect residents who currently depend on the county.
"The county's responsibilities are modified — whether that means less roads to maintain or less residences in the 911 system," Hudson said.
Ambulance service could still be provided by the county, Hudson said, before stating it would be "based on the specifics of the land being annexed and the homes/properties being serviced."
Bell said city officials were under no illusion regarding additional costs the city could incur by annexing land. But he said should the city annex land on or near what will become Interstate 49, any development that occurs along the highway should provide the city with additional sales tax revenue.
"You're going to provide the services and you'll have to have the money coming in to provide services," he said. "I-49 coming in will increase the chances of retail businesses in this area."
Any decision for annexation will have to be decided on by a vote, Bell said.
"The county has to approve it," he said. "It goes through an election process."