Barling Board discusses beautification, business plans and taxes

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

A meeting of the Barling Board of Directors Tuesday (Feb. 11) billed as an economic development study session quickly spiraled into something else entirely.

"Maybe this being called an economic growth study session was probably the wrong terminology. Maybe it was a Barling beautification study session," said City Administrator Mike Tanner after the meeting.

The reason for the distinction is because the study session, which was meant to get input from city directors on how to spur economic development in the city, instead focused almost entirely on landscaping, sidewalks and signs along Fort Street, a continuation of Fort Smith's Rogers Avenue that runs through the heart of Barling.

While the meeting may have deviated from its original purpose, it had a few moments of discussion of economic development when City Director Bruce Farrar addressed the need for the city to have what he said was the equivalent of a business plan.

"We need to develop a one year plan, a five year plan, a 10 year plan and a 20 year plan, like a business does. This is what we're going to accomplish this year, this year we're going to finish this project," he said. "I've been on this Board 13 years and we have never had a plan or a project. We always fly by the seat of our pants. I think it's time we change."

Farrar said property values have declined in the city, adding that his personal research has shown homes sold in Barling sell at 10%-15% less value than comparable homes in neighboring communities such as Fort Smith and Greenwood. The long-time Board member added that it takes three to four times longer to sell a home in the city, with the community only having two homes sold with values above $140,000 in the last three years. According to Farrar, the culprit is Fort Street, which he called an eye sore.

It was at this point that talk shifted from economic development to beautification, with Board members focusing more on the aesthetics of the street than attracting business and industry.

Farrar himself proposed a stricter set of rules governing construction of buildings in the city, along with stricter ordinances governing the installation of signs and upkeep of property. It was something Mayor Jerry Barling immediately attacked while taking a shot to his city's western neighbor.

"You don't want to be as restrictive as Fort Smith is, because I'm telling you they killed development in Fort Smith," he said. "When you have to spend $4,000 to set your garbage can at a particular area of the property, business isn't going to like that."

The Board came to an agreement to be voted on at a later meeting that it would attempt  to move forward with developing a plan to improve the city's appearance ahead of the opening of two big projects in the city in the coming years — the opening of a section of Interstate 49, which will end at Fort Street and Arkansas Highway 59, and a planned outdoor shopping mall in development at the same intersection, with an opening scheduled sometime in 2015 at the earliest.

Tanner said both projects could give the city the momentum it needs to see growth, now that it is no longer bound by Fort Chaffee to the south and east, essentially solving the dilemma of how to spur economic development that was the original topic of discussion at Tuesday's meeting.

"With this mall coming in, the economic growth should basically take care of itself. Just hopefully with the economic growth and the beautification — taking care of the signage and the sidewalks — that will lead to other retailers wanting to move to Barling," he said after the meeting.

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As part of planning for that future growth, Tanner said an ordinance placing a vote on a one cent sales tax before the voters in November could give the city much needed funding to improve roads across the city as Tanner and other city leaders plan for the increase in traffic expected with the I-49 and outdoor mall opening.

The sales tax would be the second one to be voted on in a year, after Barling voters last year approved a one cent sales tax to fund improvements to the fire department. Because of an error in certifying the election, Tanner said collection of that tax will not begin until April 1, tacking on an overall sales tax of 8.75% on all purchases made in the city. If the latest sales tax is approved, it would bump the rate to 9.75%.

A vote by the Board on placing the item on the November ballot is expected as early as the March 11 meeting.

Five Star Votes: 
Average: 4.3 (7 votes)

Comments

Right on

Every time I hear "beautification" mentioned by anyone in this area it makes me cringe. Not because I don't like good looking areas to spend time and see while drivin but because, in this area, it means "stop building, create restrictions, stop growth, plant trees and shrubs everywhere". Jerry Barling is right on when he said restrictions have killed growth in Fort Smith. This is not a shot to his age, but I am so relieved to see someone in hi age group recognize this fact. You cannot create restriction after restriction on business and expect them to want to locate in an area. What part of that makes no sense? Maybe some flower shops may but I'm talking businesses who want to grow and provide economic benefit and jobs as well as generate profit! This area seems to think all you have to do is throw some trees an flowers around and that will "create improved home values". Wrong. What develops and increases value is whether or not there are real jobs and a real future for people to want to live in an area. "Beautification" should be a secondary item. Now, don't take that wrong - you can't have a completely dirty, run down place either. Hopefully Barling doesn't fall into the anti-growth ad waiting to die retirement home Fort Smith is trying to become.

Unrestrained

So you would have unrestricted, do whatever you want policies? How will you feel when someone decides a hog farm is a good idea in your neighborhood? I really don't believe that Ft. Smith's decline is due to such restrictions. it is more due to leadership failure to recognize what is going on right in front of them. Too many good old boy groups.

Beautiful and smart can happen

You have to realize that the regulations part can be like a strong magnet to certain types of individuals who do not have the ability to make it all fit together into an attractive and successful city. What they likely will do is memorize all the regulations down to the very last letter and the ones that get real extreme with this can be devastating to an economy by causing too much attention to be focused primarily on rules. There are places far more interesting than it will ever be here and you do NOT have to have 100% of everything perfect all the way in and out to make someone want to come back. You have to make it enjoyable overall.

uh oh

"Farrar said property values have declined in the city, adding that his personal research has shown homes sold in Barling sell at 10%-15% less value than comparable homes in neighboring communities" But.. but.. regulations and aesthetics bad!

Nice try

Nice try at sarcasm. Barling has not traditionally been known as a place of economic value. Your attempt at sarcasm to prove my theory wrong was poorly thought out. I'm looking to the future but you, like most people in this area, are looking at comparing pasts.

Home Values

What good are home values if you can't find a job to make enough money to pay your house payment?

Mr. Farrar is couldn't have

Mr. Farrar is couldn't have said it better with the the culprit being Fort Street. Lack of regulation and design standards have gave this street the look of a salvage yard.

identity problem in Barling

This article is a good example of some things I touch upon in my Fort Smith Experience Part 15 (b) blog posted today. As I was reading this article it became clear to me that the city of Barling, like the city Fort Smith, doesn't know who it is and hasn't for quite sometime as evidenced throughout the article but, is especially clear in this excerpt - "We need to develop a one year plan, a five year plan, a 10 year plan and a 20 year plan, like a business does. This is what we're going to accomplish this year, this year we're going to finish this project," he said. "I've been on this Board 13 years and we have never had a plan or a project. We always fly by the seat of our pants. I think it's time we change." - The city of Barling would be wise to spend some time getting to know who it is (what kind of city it's being - its 'Be') as well as taking a look at who it wants to Be. If these two identities i.e., the 'Be' that is now and the 'Be' that is desired in the future, can be identified and thoroughly delineated...then a realistic and viable plan on how to get from what IS to what is desired can be crafted, of which city beautification might be an integral part. If it is it is because it aligns to the objective of the city and facilitates the journey to that objective. Furthermore, with points A and B clearly defined and a viable plan in place, any and all rules and regulations, either extant or proposed, could then be judged as to whether they forward the plan or are antipathetic to the plan. If the present 'Be' of the city is not fully known and if the future 'Be' has not been clearly postulated, all planning and execution of plans becomes arbitrary and arbitrary begets arbitrary. Wherever 'arbitrary rule' is standard operating procedure then conflict, complexities, and confusions will be the order of the day.
This article is a good example of some things I touch upon in my Fort Smith Experience Part 15 (b) blog posted today. As I was reading this article it became clear to me that the city of Barling, like the city Fort Smith, doesn't know who it is and hasn't for quite sometime as evidenced throughout the article but, is especially clear in this excerpt - "We need to develop a one year plan, a five year plan, a 10 year plan and a 20 year plan, like a business does. This is what we're going to accomplish this year, this year we're going to finish this project," he said. "I've been on this Board 13 years and we have never had a plan or a project. We always fly by the ...>> Read the entire comment.

I'm tellin you

"You don't want to be as restrictive as Fort Smith is, because I'm telling you they killed development in Fort Smith" Yep, it wasn't the decision of one company to move refrigerator production to Mexico during a major economic recession, directly resulting in thousands of lost jobs and indirectly impacting thousands more, it's them darned restrictions I tells ya.

I'm telling all

The real facts about the Whirlpool move may never be known but its really strange that Whirlpool expanded their operation in Tulsa, Oklahoma, while shutting their plant down in Fort Smith. The Ohio Whirlpool plant was also expanded because of huge tax breaks for job creation and low water costs that did not happen in Fort Smith.

So..neither of them have a new parking ordinance

do they? Thanks to a few of our most active citizens..we do!

Nonsense

What a twisted argument. They shut down both Evansville and then Fort Smith refrigerator plants and moved the production to Mexico, not another factory in the U.S., to compete with cheaper refrigerator competition, e.g. LG. If it isn't labor and simply a case of high costs of doing business in Fort Smith or corporate welfare, why didn't they just move everything to another factory in the U.S. such as Evansville or any number of empty Maytag appliance factories across the country after Whirlpool bought them out? I'm sure these other cities would have bent over backwards competing to get those jobs. The city government is far from perfect, but I swear some of you would blame the city for anything and everything. Is the city also responsible for the other millions of manufacturing jobs across all parts of the country that shifted south of the border in the last 14 years?

The Blame Has A Home

There certainly is a lot of Blame to be placed on Fort Smith City Administration starting with failing to collect water true ups from Van Buren, The subpoenas issued to good citizens who were just wanting the right to vote on a new tax, the failure of City Hall to collect a loan of taxpayer money to a builder, The outright lie that the city had no money to pay for TV of City Directors Meetings, the huge waste of taxpayer money on studies that rot in the City Hall basement, the 500 or so empty commercial Buildings in the city, the wasteful trips to Washington and the plushy BOD retreats out of town, the huge deficits run up at the Convention Center, the extra 3 million on the Water Park, and we could go on and on listing wasted taxpayer money but you should get the message Anon.

You mean...

Do you mean like the huge tax breaks that Mitsubishi got for the mothballed plant at Chaffee crossing? Or the huge ones that the state is going to "try" to clawback from Hewlett Packard down around LR? More corporate welfare built upon the backs of the tax paying citizens isn't an answer.

Spin Baby Spin

Whirlpool's decision to move was a result of many problems that involved labor problems, high property taxes, high water rates, and no tax credits for existing jobs. Other States were offering tax credits for job creation and property tax abatements for as much as 10 years so there is a lot of political blame that needs to find its way home for losing Whirlpool. The Tulsa Whirlpool expanded its operation and the Ohio plant saw a huge expansion also. If the move to Mexico was just for cheaper labor, why were all these other US plants expanded? The cheap labor excuse just does not hold water!

The less money there is to be made..

..the less investors are willing to crawl through a grueling maze to get to it. If there is a lot of money by the buzzer, yes you can be asinine with the rules. You can even allow someone to go on a personal vendetta against a business they feel detracts from their neighborhood or more accurately put, section of the city's aesthetic value. Is there a lot of money waiting at the buzzer for an investor right now or is it a crap-shoot for success between he and the janitor?

Barling home sales misinformation

To correct Mr. Farrar's comments regarding Barling home sales not being above $140,000 in the past few years. In 2012, there were 4 homes sold above $140,000, highest being $155,000. In 2013, there were 6 homes sold above $140,000, the highest being $154,000. Being a Realtor, I have that information according to our multi-list service. Just wanted to make sure the public is correctly informed.

Charlotte King, Realtor
Weichert Realtors-King Realty Group
3920 Rogers Avenue
Fort Smith, AR 72903