During a press conference held earlier this morning, retired lieutenant colonel Jim Buckner stood alongside State Senator Sue Madison to speak in support of the denial of the rezoning of the land adjacent to the Fayetteville National Cemetery.
The property is home to the Washington County Livestock Auction, or the “sale barn” as it’s know locally. But with the closing of the 70-year-old business tomorrow afternoon, owner Billy Joe Bartholomew plans to sell the land.
Bartholomew has accepted an offer from Campus Crest LLC, a development company with plans to build student housing at the location but many neighbors are protesting the rezoning application that will be required to allow for apartments.
“We contend that that is the worst kind of neighbor you can have,” said Buckner in speaking of the possibility of having student housing across the street from the cemetery.
Senator Madison agreed saying that having multi-story apartments nearby violates the sanctity of those buried. “I frankly think Fayetteville has more than enough apartments. We don’t need anymore faceless, nameless neighborhoods,” said Madison.
It’s the veterans’ hope that the rezoning will be denied so that the sale to Campus Crest LLC will, in turn, be forfeited and allow them some time to raise enough money to purchase the land themselves.
“In 2023, this cemetery will be filled,” said Buckner. “The only way we can expand enough to take us up to the end of this century is to acquire this property,” he continued. “If we get the rezoning stopped, that would give us time to raise money, purchase that land and expand the cemetery.”
Buckner issued a release today stating that veteran leaders from Northwest Arkansas will formally ask U.S. Senators Blanch Lincoln, David Pryor and Congressman John Boozman to work together toward passage of a $4 million earmark for the purchase and development of the sale barn land.
They’re also asking for donations but so far, only about $2500 has been raised, according to Regional National Cemetery Improvement Corporation spokesman Ron Butler.
The Fayetteville Planning Commission is in support of the rezoning since it’s currently designated to allow for Heavy Commercial/Light Industrial businesses to operate on the property, whereas Downtown General would be a considerable downzoning.
The City Council, however, tabled the issue last Tuesday after about a dozen neighbors spoke out. The Council will likely hear at least two more readings before making a decision.
If the above slideshow doesn’t load on your computer, you can view all the photos from today’s press conference on our Flickr account.
Disclosure: The owner of the sale barn property, Billy Joe Bartholomew, is our own Dustin Bartholomew’s grandfather. Read our full disclosure policy here.