Sarah Marsh seeks re-election in Fayetteville’s Ward 1

Sarah Marsh / Courtesy photo

Ward 1 representative Sarah Marsh would like another four years in her seat on the Fayetteville City Council.

The 40-year-old alderwoman, who was elected to the council in 2012, is a self-employed designer working on development plans for small infill housing as well as her own line of clothing. She also serves as vice mayor, a council-approved post that fills in when the mayor is absent.

Marsh will face Paul Phaneuf, who was defeated by Adella Gray in a runoff election in 2014. No one else filed for the Ward 1, Position 2 seat. The official filing period for municipal candidates ended Aug. 19.

Ward 1 encompasses south and southeast Fayetteville, including the areas south of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Huntsville Road. Mount Sequoyah, Happy Hollow Elementary, and Ramay Junior High School are also included in Ward 1.

Marsh said south Fayetteville, which was historically a minority neighborhood, suffers from “a legacy of underinvestment.”

“The average household income south of MLK is less than $25,000 per year,” Marsh said in her candidacy press release. “I fight every day for better services, more investment, and improved quality of life for our ward and our city.”

If re-elected, Marsh said she’ll push hard for developing long-range master plans, and is excited for an opportunity to help implement the city’s updated economic development plan.

“I love (the plan’s) emphasis on growing arts and culture, cultivating local businesses and
entrepreneurs, and leveraging our high environmental standards to attract top-quality investment,” Marsh said.

Transportation, waste reduction, responsible growth management, and a continued stand against development that endangers water quality are other areas she pledged to focus on if re-elected.

This year’s general election is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Profile: Sarah Marsh

Position sought: Ward 1, Position 2
Age: 40
Residency: Grew up in Fayetteville until 2002 when she moved to Seattle; returned in 2010
Employment: Self-Employed Designer/Maker
Education: Professional degree of Architecture, University of Arkansas; studied fashion design at The New York Fashion Academy; graduate of Fayetteville High School
Political Experience: Ward 1 Alderwoman since 2013; Current vice mayor


Why run for re-election? Is there anything in particular you want to introduce or continue working toward?
My focus areas are responsible growth management, a robust economy, and a resilient community. I’ve pushed hard for developing long-range plans and I look forward to implementing the new economic development plan. I love its emphasis on growing arts and culture, cultivating local businesses and entrepreneurs, and leveraging our high environmental standards to attract top-quality investment. The soon-to-be complete comprehensive transportation master plan will help us improve connectivity. I’m committed to meeting our aggressive waste reduction goal of reducing or diverting at least 80% of our waste by 2025. I hope to accelerate build-out of our active transportation plan because our trails network has been fantastic for our city. I’ll also maintain my firm commitment to our 2030 CityPlan to help us achieve the planning goals as directed by our citizens.

Four years ago you said Ward 1 suffered from irresponsible development and inadequate stormwater infrastructure. In your opinion, have there been any improvements since 2012?
Shortly after my election, I helped revise our drainage criteria manual to incorporate new low-impact development standards designed to help slow, spread, and infiltrate stormwater. We worked with the local watershed partnerships to restore eroded stream banks and increase water quality monitoring. In the Walker Park neighborhood, we’ve allocated funds for major infrastructure improvements associated with the Willow Bend attainable housing development that in addition to enhancing neighborhood connectivity, will significantly improve drainage in that area. We just wrapped up a big drainage improvement project on East Mountain Street that also included a new sidewalk to the Yvonne Richardson Center and we’ve done neighborhood scale drainage improvements on Clover Drive and in Wedington Woods.

I’ve taken a firm stand against development that endangers our water quality and have been pleased to see more rezoning requests include preservation protections for sensitive and flood-prone areas. Our biggest win has been the preservation of Mount Kessler. By land-banking this incredible natural asset in perpetuity, we are avoiding the significant damage that would have come from de-foresting and developing the mountain top, while providing a landmark regional amenity to our citizens.

Regarding irresponsible development, it’s still a problem city-wide, but we’re seeing some good stuff happening Ward 1. I love the development experimentation that is happening in the Walker Park neighborhood. Lots of small-scale developers are trying out different housing types, creating a neat mishmash of people and styles. I’ve personally worked with quite a few small developers to help them
navigate their projects through our unnecessarily complicated entitlement process. Through this process and my own development work I have found numerous barriers to good development in Fayetteville and have been a persistent advocate for revising our regulations so that they are consistent with our adopted planning goals. I’ve asked staff to draw the codes and create visual tools that better convey our standards so that the expectations are clear from the beginning. This process is helping to identify many areas where
improvement is needed.

In addition to having a Professional Degree of Architecture and being a LEED A.P. BD+C, I’ve attended training on smart growth management through the Congress for New Urbanism, Community Design Center, Small Developers Boot Camp, National League of Cities, US Green Building Council and other professional organizations so that I am well equipped to lead our city through this period of unprecedented growth.

During your time in office, are there any council decisions were you especially proud of or frustrated with?
What started as a well-meaning attempt to protect the historic residential core of our downtown area from being eaten by massive apartment blocks, turned into the major disaster that is now our height and setback ordinance. In retrospect, it was way too complicated of a proposal and I should have started out consulting planning staff about the issue instead of allowing the city attorney to attempt to write an architectural standard. In the process of trying to simplify it the council ended up making it worse and doing the
opposite of what I intended to the point that I had to vote against my own ordinance. Lesson learned. I hope one of the council members that voted for the bad ordinance will move to overturn it. On the bright side, those two fine houses on Block Street are still standing and both have been beautifully restored. Mission accomplished.

I loved the urban agriculture ordinance that the mayor and I co-sponsored. Northwest Arkansas has extraordinarily high rates of food insecurity. In Washington County, 1 in 3 kids and 1 in 4 adults are worrying about where their next meal will come from. This embodied our commitment to build a food city and create a community of abundance to meet this need with healthy, local food. We convened local health and agricultural experts, studied examples from other cities to see what worked and what didn’t, and drafted an ordinance that encourages farms and community gardens, expands sales of agricultural products in farm stands and markets, and allows for people to raise chickens, rabbits, goats, and bees. We even planted a community orchard at the Yvonne Richardson Center.

Has anyone else noticed the upswing in local cheese making, honey sales, herbal products, and menus boasting local ingredients? People are creating jobs for themselves by growing and creating these unique, local products. As a person with minimal income, I rely on my garden for food security and I feel empowered when I have the ability to share the bounty with my friends and neighbors in need. I’m proud to be an ally in government to great organizations like Tri-Cycle Farms, Feed Fayetteville, and Apple Seeds that are helping us grow our own solution to hunger.