Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thiel stands alone against wood-chipping plan in West Fork of White River watershed

Almost clear: Old race track property to be wood chipping site
BY ROBIN MERO Northwest Arkansas Times
Posted on Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Fayetteville's ice storm debris problem was neatly solved — almost.

The city has nearly finished collecting tons of branches and limbs from yards and properties following the Jan. 27 storm. A contractor was found to grind the wood into mulch for use in gardening or as bedding in chicken houses.

Bedding materials are desperately needed by poultry producers, as saw mills across the region have closed due to a stagnant housing construction industry, the Fayetteville City Council heard Tuesday night.

The city will be reimbursed for more than 80 percent of the $5 million-plus cost.

There is only a single hitch — one that caused Ward 1 Alderman Brenda Thiel to vote against five fellow aldermen Tuesday.

The contractor will haul the 150,000 cubic yards of partially chopped wood to a 15.2-acre property south of Willoughby Road and east of U.S. 71B. That is the same property where the Thunder Valley Race Track once operated.

The contractor will spend three months grinding that wood, seven days a week and up to 10 hours a day, as a dozen tractor-trailers continuously cycle through — for loading and hauling the product to Huntsville. There will be about 1,500 trailer loads, predicted Gary Easterling of International Equipment Distributors, which won the $439,500 contract for disposal.

Thiel is concerned about noise, and that water runoff will be contaminated and flow into the West Fork of the White River.

"I understand the urgency, but I cannot support this," Thiel told the council. "This is in a valley and, as we know, the noise reverberates. This is surrounded by a residential neighborhood and will disrupt the area. I'm very sympathetic, as this population dealt with an issue for several years."

Mayor Lioneld Jordan said he also finds the solution imperfect, but he emphasized time constraints. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality gave Fayetteville a May 27 deadline to remove the chips from three locations in the city, due to concerns about spontaneous combustion and leaching.

"The easiest thing to do would have been burn this wood, like Springdale did," Jordan said. "I thought we were a more environmentally friendly city than that, so I offered to chip it."
Thiel stands alone in defending her neighborhood and Beaver Lake watershed
Aldermen were asked Tuesday to rezone the 15.2 acres temporarily from RA (residential agricultural) to I-2 (general industrial). This will allow the work to be done, and give city staff the authority to control dust, noise and erosion. The property will be rezoned back to R-A after work is complete.

The ADEQ must still approve a storm-water prevention plan before the chipping and hauling can begin. Water flowing through the chips can create tannic acid, which has a very low pH and can cause environmental harm.

The city is currently capturing water at sites where the wood chips are stored and pumping it straight into the sewer systems, David Jurgens, water and wastewater director, said. Preventative measures for the new site may include plugging drains to prevent runoff and the use of plastic to catch water.

The land, owned by Sam Mathias, is easily accessed by tractor-trailers, and the potential of them getting stuck is minimized by the grass surface and concrete paths, city staff said.

Easterling said he looked at about 10 possible locations for relocating the chips for grinding, but they were either too small or inaccessible by trucks.

About 75 percent of the material will be sold as poultry bedding, Easterling said.

"It's really in demand because of the sawmill shutdowns, and right now is when it's needed," he said. "The only other options are rice hulls, which aren't good, and pine shavings — which are expensive."

Easterling also ground storm debris for Berryville and Huntsville, but those were much smaller propositions, he said.

A second Ward 1 alderman, Adella Gray, was absent from Tuesday's meeting.

Thiel cast the only oppositional vote in the 5-1 decision to rezone the property. The issue was not on the regular agenda but had been mentioned publicly at the end of a special council meeting Thursday.

"I cannot express enough how disappointed I am the public has not had the opportunity to comment, particularly with the trouble we went to change the use of that part of the property," Thiel said.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Silent Auction to support Meals on Wheels tonight

Please click on image to ENLARGE view of poster touting upcoming silent auction to benefit Meals on Wheels.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sale barn or 500-student apartment complex next to National Cemetery?

Ward One meeting held a week ago in the Town Branch Neighborhood is to be shown on Cox cable channel 16 at 11 a.m today and again at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.
City16 Government Channel schedule available online.

Apartment-builders' plan for the sale-barn property is presented during that meeting and several people who live in the neighborhood comment on the idea and even suggest alternatives.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Earth Day celebration on April 19, 2009, at World Peace Wetland Prairie

Please click on image to ENLARGE to read details of the poster.

Bird-watchers welcome every day from dawn to dusk!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Zoom lens shows proximity of proposed and newly built multifamily housing in Town Branch neighborhood

Please click on image to ENLARGE view of the Washington County Sale Barn from the west balcony of the Fayetteville Senior Center on South College Avenue in Walker Park.

Please click on image to ENLARGE view of the top of the Washington County Sale Barn and, a few blocks further west, the top of newly built student apartments west of Hill Avenue and, beyond that across the railroad, the east slope of Rochier Hill, which also is slated for multifamily residential development. The white roof in the foreground is that of a business on South School Avenue.

Fritz Gisler joins city administration as Government Channel manager

Monday, April 6, 2009

Would student apartments be more appropriate than a livestock auction barn next to National Cemetery for veterans? Not likely

Everyone is welcom at today's 5:30 p.m. meeting of Ward One residents and the Town Branch Neighborhood at the S. Hill Avenue Church of Christ near the intersection of 11th Street and S. Hill Avenue to hear and discuss a proposal to rezone the Washington County Livestock Auction Barn for student apartments. The area is shown on Google Maps below.

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The sale barn in the view below is at right and the national cemetery is at left. WOULD STUDENT APARTMENTS be any more appropriate next to the National Cemetery than a sale barn? The cemetery was created in 1867 and the sale barn in 1937.

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Please share information about the 5:30 p.m. April 5 (TODAY) meeting of Ward One residents at the Church of Christ on South Hill Avenue in Fayetteville.
Attorney Bob Estes is to present a proposal to have the Washington County Sale Barn rezoned so that student apartments may be built on the land in the Town Branch Neighborhood. If the rezoning is accepted, then a North Carolina company will buy the land and build the apartments.
The cattle-auction facility was constructed in 1937 by the grandfather of the current owner.
Cattle are brought in early each week and auctioned on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday. There is no permanent housing of a large group of animals.
Because of the north slope's being well vegetated, stormwater runoff to streams in each direction is relatively clean, much cleaner than the runoff from the Hill Place Apartment complex being constructed three blocks to the west.
Closing the sale barn in south Fayetteville would greatly inconvenience ranchers and farmers in south Washington County. In fact, having to travel to Springdale to buy and sell cattle could be final factor in some landowners deciding to sell out and stop farming.
All this would come at a time when encouraging local production of food and protecting the rich soil on the prairies in the river valleys is high on the agenda of many people and many conservation organizations.
Closing the sale barn could affect the local farm economy and several other businesses in south Fayetteville that rely on local farming. It would encourage more unneeded housing to be built in rural areas while allowing more unneeded apartments to be built in a city where empty apartments and condominiums are plentiful.
Anything that damages the agricultural economy of Northwest Arkansas will reduce the effectiveness of such ongoing efforts as the FNHA's green-infrastructure project, the Beaver Lake and Illinois River watershed-protection efforts and the efforts of OMNI Center, the Sierra Club, Audubon Arkansas, the League of Women voters, the Ozark Society, the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited and many other conservation organizations to protect and improve our environment and counter the threat of global climate change.

Town Branch Neighborhood Association meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday April 6, 2009

Ward One City Council members, members of the Town Branch neighborhood association and the public will hear a presentation from a developer seeking to rezone the Washington County Sale Barn property to allow construction of student apartments. Everyone is welcome to the meeting in the church at 1136 S Ellis Avenue south of the intersection of S. Hill Avenue and Eleventh Street at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 6.
For details, please call 479-444-6072 or visit

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ward One council members, residents of south Fayetteville to meet to discuss proposal to build student apartments on Washington County Sale Barn land

Town Branch Neighborhood Association meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday April 6, 2009

Ward One City Council members, members of the Town Branch neighborhood association and the public will hear a presentation from a developer seeking to rezone the Washington County Sale Barn property to allow construction of student apartments. Everyone is welcome to the meeting in the church at 1136 S Ellis Avenue south of the intersection of S. Hill Avenue and Eleventh Street at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 6.
For details, please call 479-444-6072 or visit

Earth Day at World Peace Wetland Prairie from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday April 19, 2009

Members of the Town Branch neighborhood association and the OMNI Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology present the fifth-annual Earth Day celebration with activities for kids and adults. Wildflowers will be planted in the butterfly garden and peace-circle garden on the east portion of the city-owned nature park by children and adult volunteers. Ice-storm damaged limbs will be removed by those who wish to help. Volunteers may dig out fescue grass or remove Japanese honeysuckle that is suppressing native plants in parts of the western 2 acres.
Musicians and poets will be invited to play, sing or read in a pleasant outdoor setting.
Still on the Hill and Emily Kaitz are the headliners.
Several activities for youngsters will be provided by volunteers.
Parking is free from 1 to 5 p.m. at the the Hill Avenue Church of Christ south of the intersection of S. Hill Avenue and Eleventh Street, and street parking is legal in much of the neighborhood.
Everyone is welcome. For details, call 444-6072
or visit
World Peace Wetland Prairie is at 1121 South Duncan Avenue in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Reagan family farm north of Arkansas 16 exemplifies the kind of land that must be protected in the cities of Northwest Arkansas to save Beaver Lake

Please click on image to ENLARGE view of Bill Reagan pointing to the line of trees along the fence on the south edge of his family farm along the north edge of East Fifteenth Street.

The Reagan family has owned the land for many years and Bill said that he has bought it from his mother and will keep it in the family. The farm is prairie that has been used for cattle grazing and other agriculture over the decades. It is an example of a heritage farm of the sort identified in the Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association's Green Infrastructure plan. Its rich soil captures water where falls and does not cause flooding downstream with its limited stormwater runoff entering the Town Branch of the West Fork of the White River without causing siltation or pollution. See Google map with view of Fifteenth Street area in a preceding post on this subject.
Democrat-Gazette on widening of Arkansas 16

View Larger Map
Please use controls and cursor to move the image, zoom in or out and trace the whole route discussed at the meeting yesterday. The Reagan property is near the middle left part of the image above.
If you use your cursor to travel north of the open Reagan property between Washington Avenue and Wood Avenue from 11th Street up to near 9th Street you can see the 7 wooded wetland acres that the Partners for Better housing board is trying to buy to dredge and fill for a low-income housing development. Water drains from north of Jefferson School, all the way from north of MLK Boulevard (former 6th St.) down to 15th St. and into the Town Branch of the West Fork of the White River and is slowed and purified by the moist-soil area where the tiny branch overflows.
This portion of the Beaver Lake watershed is under extreme threat. Thanks to the Reagan family and others for keeping a bit of green infrastructure intact and allowing a small part of the rainwater to stay it falls.