Saturday, September 12, 2009

Developer meets with RNCIC president and wife, who then, without vote of RNCIC members, tell media that RNCIC has no interest in sale-barn property

The Morning News story 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
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.
Meeting Information
Fayetteville City Council
When: 6 p.m., Tuesday
Where: City Hall, 113 W. Mountain St.


aubunique said...

Sep OS OS 10:3Sa Pegg~ McClain (47S) S35-8065
p. 1


PO Box 4221
Fayetteville, AR 72702
INTRODUCTION -This Fact Sheet is intended to clarify the objectives and position of the Regional
National Cemetery Improvement Corporation (RNCIC) in connection with the Fayetteville Sales Bam
re-zoning issue.
BACKGROUND - The RNCIC was established in 1984 for the sole purpose of securing additional
land, adjacent to the Fayetteville National Cemetery, for the purpose of expansion of the Cemetery.
The RNCIC is incorporated as a non-profit organization (501 c3). The RNCIC has historically planned
for, and remains committed to the acquisition of additional tand aJong Hill Street, contiguous to the
boundaries of the existing National Cemetery. The RNCIC has purchased, by private donations 17
properties, which have been turned over to the Veterans Administration (VA). These earlier properties
have increased the Fayetteville National Cemetery more than 100%. The RNCIC currently owns 2
lots on Hill Street and plans to purchase additional properties as soon as funds are available. As soon
as the properties are cleared and made ready for transfer, they will be offered to VA. The RNCIC has
historically planned for, and remains committed to the acquisition of land along Hill Street. contiguous
with the existing National Cemetery lands.
The RNCIC has been involved with the ·sale bam' issue in the following respects:
• We have expressed concern with the proposed apartment construction project and the
National Cemetery in terms of excessive noise and traffic.
• After the RNCIC sponsored one meeting with several veterans and some neighborhood
residents, it was determined the goals of RNCIC were vastly different from the others
regarding possible acqUisition of the Sale bam.. At that time the RNCIC severed all
connections with the other groups.
CURRENT STATUS - Considering the estimated multi-million dollar purchase price for the Sales Bam
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. None of these options appear promising at this time.
• Continue to solicit donations from the private sector for targeted Hill Street properties.
• Continue to apply for grants from the foundations, the Federal Government, and private
donations for land purchase to expand the Fayetteville National Cemetery.
CONCLUSION -The RNCIC remains receptive to any and all donations, grants and/or Federal
Government land purchases for the Fayetteville National Cemetery, however, at this time, the
current priority remains the Hill Street properties.

aubunique said...

I found the media release on the Fayetteville Flyer. I did not receive a copy during the RNCIC meeting on Saturday, nor did anyone else attending the meeting, as far as I know. Nice to find it published in whole someplace. A few parts didn't appear in the news stories in The Morning News or in the Flyer.
It is good to know that OUR POLICY DOESN'T exclude the option of accepting federal money or any other funding available for cemetery expansion.
I can't say how the vote would have gone if the top officers of RNCIC had not sent the release before Saturday and asked the people attending to vote whether to submit it for publication. I can say that I would not have been the only RNCIC member voting against publication of the news release as it was written.
If the rezoning were to be approved by the city council and construction on the sale-barn property were to proceed, I believe that there would be a huge backlash by this time next year.
Even with the 8 active members of the RNCIC voting to release the FACT Sheet, the eight RNCIC members opinion, regardless of the RNCIC's past wonderful service to the National Cemetery, could not be as significant as 800 people's opinion that multi-story buildings should not be allowed next to the cemetery or next to the adjacent single-family neighborhood or across the street from the Oak Cemetery. Projects allowed in a Downtown General or RMF-24 zoning CANNOT be compatible with a national shrine.

Anonymous said...

Aub, I know someone besides you who is a member of RNCIC and that person told me that this is just a matter of the RNCIC being jealous of others stepping up to lead and that they have always wanted to get the sale barn land for the cemetery.
Don't be so protective of them because they are mostly your age and older. They are just in a snit!
Buckner has spoken inappropriately, but he has brought in the help the RNCIC needs to be effective in enlarging the cemetery effectively.

Anonymous said...

Aub is right that the RNCIC deserves credit and must continue to be the fund-raising nonprofit for the cemetery. But younger veterans and others must help. They can't meet once a month and apparently agree not to fight the possibility of apartments being built by the cemetery and maintain their credibility. There are plenty of veterans against the rezoning for Downtown General.
They won't be difficult to recruit and the organization can bounce back to its full level of effectiveness. But the leaders must be willing to accept help.