The Regional National Cemetery Improvement Corporation (RNCIC) released a fact sheet this week clarifying their position on the recent controversy over the rezoning of the sale barn property on Government Avenue.
The rezoning has been a heated topic in recent months. Campus Crest, a development company from North Carolina and potential buyer of the land, has applied for a rezoning of the property from its current I-1 zoning to Downtown General.
Should the rezoning pass, Campus Crest plans to build student apartments in the location, something that some neighbors and veterans groups have vehemently opposed.
The RNCIC is a non-profit organization formed in 1984 with a stated goal of acquiring “land adjacent to the Fayetteville National Cemetery to ensure the cemetery can continue to receive veterans for burial.” Since 1984, the RNCIC has been responsible for acquiring 17 properties contiguous with the National Cemetery, increasing its overall area by over 100%.
The fact sheet released this week stated that the RNCIC’s priority is not to acquire the sale barn property, but instead all of the property located on Hill Avenue. President of the RNCIC Roger H. McClain said that the RNCIC currently owns two properties on Hill Avenue, and their immediate goal is to continue to purchase available property on Hill Avenue once funds can be raised.
This information is contrary to claims made by Jim Buckner, Senior Vice Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Department of Arkansas and others during the public input portion of the Fayetteville City Council meetings conducted over the last few months. Bucker and others have implied that the sale barn property is the only hope for the cemetery. Buckner said that “without (the sale barn property) the cemetery will be filled in only 13 years and Northwest Arkansas vets will suffer immensely.”
The RNCIC has distanced itself from the groups opposing the sale barn rezoning. McClain said that after the RNCIC sponsored a meeting with veterans including Buckner and some neighborhood residents, it was determined the goals of RNCIC were “vastly different from the others regarding possible acquisition of the sale barn.” At that time, the RNCIC says it severed all connections with the other groups.
According to the RNCIC, when considering the estimated multi-million dollar purchase price for the sale barn properties, the determination is that purchase of that property for the cemetery would not be feasible unless it received several large donations from the private sector, or specific Federal Government land purchases. “None of these options appear promising at this time,” reads the fact sheet.
Currently, there are three properties for sale on Hill Avenue that the RNCIC is targeting, two of which are contiguous with properties already purchased by the RNCIC.
“Our main goal right now is two lots on Hill Avenue. One is about $70,000, and the other one would be around $60,000,” McClain said. “If we bought those, we own the other two next door, and that would give us four lots in a row. We could then donate those to the cemetery.”
McClain estimated that acquiring the two lots on Hill Avenue would ensure space for veterans for an additional 10-15 years. McClain said that securing the funds to purchase the properties are what have prevented the RNCIC from making an offer.
“I know of three lots that are availble today, but we can’t buy them without money,” McClain said.
McClain said the RNCIC’s long term goal will focus on continuing to raise funds to acquire all of the properties between Government Avenue and Hill Avenue. McClain estimated that acquiring the rest of the property on Hill St., from the railroad tracks to 11th St. would cost “in the neighborhood of $978,000, give or take 100,000 dollars.”
“That’s been our goal now for the past several years. We’ve targeted Hill St. and Government,” McClain said. “We’re targeting Hill St. real hard. If we had the money to buy those 5 lots, we could give the cemetery a major amount of land.”
The final decision from the Fayetteville City Council on the rezoning request is expected to come Tuesday, September 15.
Donations for the expansion of the National Cemetery may be mailed to:
Regional National Cemetery Improvement Corporation
Attn: Harold Crivello, Treasurer
P.O. Box 4221
Fayetteville, Arkansas 72702
Disclosure: The owner of the sale barn property, Billy Joe Bartholomew, is our own Dustin Bartholomew’s grandfather. Read our full disclosure policy here.