Fayetteville bond special election set for April 9, 2019

Fayetteville Flyer file photo

Fayetteville voters will head to the polls on April 9, 2019 to decide whether to approve a bond referendum that would extend the city’s 1-cent sales tax.

City Council members on Tuesday approved the ballot language for the election by a vote of 7-0. Council member Mark Kinion was absent.

The last voter-approved bond referendum was in 2006, and just like 12 years ago, if approved, the money would be used to pay for a list of proposed capital projects.

The 2006 bond program paid for a variety of projects, including the 71B flyover bridge, the widening of Garland Avenue, an extension of Van Asche Drive, and a series of improvements to North College Avenue.

If approved, the 2019 program would generate about $226 million that would be used for road, drainage, trail and park improvements; economic development; construction of a cultural arts corridor and new parking facilities; a new police headquarters; a new fire station; various city facilities improvements; and refinancing outstanding sales tax bonds.

The bonds are expected to be paid off in 10-12 years.

Discussion of the bond program has mostly been centered around construction of a cultural arts corridor, which would include redevelopment of the West Avenue parking lot at the corner of Dickson Street and West Avenue across from the Walton Arts Center.

The latest concepts for the project show a landscaped lawn area with flexible event space, a stage, a promenade, interactive water features, pathways, a pavilion, and buildings for cafes, galleries or offices.

The council added to a resolution clarifying that the corridor would include replacement parking for the West Avenue lot, and that parking would be set before the lot is redeveloped. Replacement parking could come in different ways, such as a brand new public parking deck, on-street public spaces, or through a public-private development that includes parking spaces that are available to the public at all times.

Mayor Jordan said he’s currently exploring a few public-private partnership opportunities, including one concept that might include a parking deck north of the train depot building and south of Lafayette Street. He said he doesn’t know if that idea will come to fruition, or whether some other better option will arise in the meantime, but promised that parking would be in place before work begins on the West Avenue lot.

Peter Lane, president of the Walton Arts Center, said he’s excited about the project and the opportunities that would arise for additional arts programming through use of the performance spaces and art venues that are envisioned for the corridor. He also commended the council for making a commitment to replace any lost parking.

If approved, Fayetteville voters would join those in Springdale who passed an extension of that city’s 1-cent sales tax for almost $225 million in bonds, and voters in Rogers who passed a nearly $300 million bond referendum earlier this year.

Proposed 2019 Bond Referendum Projects

The following is a list of projects included in the proposed 2019 bond issue, as listed on the city’s website. These 10 items will appear as separate issues on the ballot.

1. Refinancing of the current outstanding sales tax bonds – approximately $12.2 million

2. Road Improvement Projects – $70 million

Road improvement projects have been prioritized from public input during the Fayetteville Mobility Plan process and proposed through staff reports to the Transportation Committee. Transportation projects below include features, where appropriate, such as traffic capacity, sidewalk, transit, and bicycle facilities enhancements.

Improvements to the following corridors:

  • Completion of the last missing segment of North Rupple Road for the Mayor’s Box, and improvements to other sections, including the intersection of Howard Nickell Road and Highway 112
  • Zion Road: from North Vantage Drive to North Crossover Road (Highway 265)
  • N. Porter Road, West Deane Street, and West Sycamore Street: from I-49 to N. College Avenue
  • North Street and Mission Boulevard (Highway 45): from North Garland Avenue to Old Wire Road
  • Improvements to Highway 71B, to implement the recommendations from the Highway 71B Corridor Plan currently in progress

Intersection improvements:

  • West 15th Street and Razorback Road
  • Millsap Road and North College Avenue
  • Intersection signalization at four to five additional locations (to be determined)

Structural and system improvements to include:

  • Hardware and software upgrades for the traffic signal network, to make it easier to respond to changing traffic conditions, and to connect to future connected vehicle technology
  • Accelerated pavement overlay and pavement management programs

Pedestrian-focused improvements to include:

  • Downtown area sidewalk improvements, to include additional lighting, wider sidewalks, removal of obstructions, improved street crossings, and other pedestrian improvements
  • Transit stop amenities and safety upgrades

3. Trail Improvement Projects – $6.5 million

As part of the city’s growing pedestrian and cycling network, trail and bicycle system improvements will include:

  • Maple Street Cycle Track construction through the UA campus
  • Completion of the Tsa La Gi Trail
  • Connections to Centennial Park via the Shiloh Trail and connections along Old Farmington Road
  • Sublett Creek Trail: connecting areas near East North Street and Mission Boulevard, through Evelyn Hills Shopping Center area, to North College Avenue at East Poplar Street near Woodland Junior High School
  • Extension of the St. Paul Trail to the proposed paddle park at Pump Station Road, across the West Fork of the White River, and connecting with neighborhoods east of the river

4. Drainage Improvement Projects – $15 million

The drainage improvement plan was developed in 2018 after the major flooding event in April of 2017. Based on flooding that was reported across the city, over 100 projects ranging in size were identified. Some of the larger projects include:

  • Little Missouri Creek area (near Old Missouri Road and Mud Creek Trail)
  • Elmhurst Avenue and McClinton Street area
  • Sunbridge Drive and North College Avenue area
  • East Country Way Road and East Ferguson Avenue area

5. Park Improvement Projects – $25 million

Bond Projects for the Parks and Recreation Department will span the regional and community parks and add new features and land acquisition to include:

  • Completion of the Kessler Mountain Regional Park baseball complex
  • Acquisition of future park land to include a partnership with the Fayetteville Public Schools for purchase of Lewis Fields
  • Improvements at Lake Fayetteville
  • Camping amenities at Lake Sequoyah Park
  • Enhancements to the Community Parks, including the Yvonne Richardson Community Center
  • A paddle park on the West Fork of the White River

6. Economic Development Projects – $3 million

A fund for land acquisition, site development, and infrastructure improvements to foster public/private partnerships to provide flexibility for recruiting businesses and to enhance Fayetteville’s incentive program.

7. City Facilities Improvements – $3 million

A number of improvements to city buildings to improve energy efficiencies and air handling units to include:

  • Remodeling of City Hall
  • Renovation of the current police facility for other uses if a new facility is approved
  • Renovation of Parks current facility

8. Construction of an Arts Corridor (including replacement parking) – $30 million

A multi-purpose investment in Fayetteville’s Downtown/Entertainment District, the Arts Corridor will bring cultural attractions and activate the outdoor environment in a 50-acre tract downtown. A number of destinations and preserved green spaces along the Razorback Greenway will create this vibrant and memorable civic space. This transformative project will create a tourist destination to bring people and new businesses to the center of town to generate tax revenues as an ongoing economic engine for our downtown.

Some features include:

  • Public art
  • Streetscaping
  • Enhanced pedestrian paths
  • Gathering spaces that integrate the natural landscape with the urban
  • Preserved ecosystems of streams and trees in the heart of downtown
  • Parking facilities

9. Police Facilities Improvements – $35 million

A new headquarters building for the Fayetteville Police Department to include the purchase of land and construction costs for a 55,000-square foot building and related facilities will provide the capacity for public safety to keep up with our growing city.

10. Firefighting Facilities Improvements – $15 million

The city has identified the need for three additional fire stations and apparatus to support ongoing growth for fire and emergency response.