Council approves proposal to purchase vacant apartments in west Fayetteville

City’s purchase contingent on current offer not being completed
Vacant units of the West End apartment complex make up four structures on West End Avenue off Wedington Drive just east of Interstate 49 in Fayetteville. (Todd Gill/Fayetteville Flyer)

FAYETTEVILLE — City officials will make a formal offer to buy a vacant apartment complex so it can be torn down and turned into green space in an effort to address flooding on the west side of town.

The City Council on Tuesday voted 8-0 to authorize an offer to purchase the West End apartments off Wedington Drive just east of Interstate 49. The property is currently under contract with another buyer, so the city’s purchase will be contingent on the current offer not being completed.

City staff engineer Alan Pugh said the city recently paid to have the property appraised. That report showed a value of $1.39 million, which is what the city will offer, and is a figure that’s nearly in line with the $1.4 million asking price.

The 50-unit complex is spread across four buildings, and is located in a floodway on West End Avenue near Hamestring Creek. The site floods during heavy rainfall.

The most recent flood happened in May when over 2 inches of rain fell in a 45-minute period. That incident led to nearly 30 residents at the West End complex being evacuated by emergency crews. Many of the residents lost the majority of their belongings, and some people’s vehicles were totaled. Once the water receded, the residents were all relocated to other areas, and the owner listed the property for sale.

Pugh said complex isn’t the only property in the area that experiences high water during heavy rainfall, but its impervious surface contributes heavily to flooding issues in the surrounding homes.

A recent flood study examined ideas to mitigate high waters in the area, including adding detention ponds, widening drainage channels and constructing larger culverts in the neighborhood. Pugh said none of those measures seem to offer much of a solution for the neighbors.

“Unfortunately, our flood study indicated that even in combination, many of those things weren’t moving the needle far enough to help these residents,” Pugh said. “In reality, the best way to solve the flooding for those particular apartments would be to purchase them and remove the structures.”

West End apartment complex (Todd Gill/Fayetteville Flyer)

Councilmember Sloan Scroggin said he’s advocated for the purchase of the complex for several years. He said he’s spoken with several neighbors who are on board with the idea because their homes also experience flooding during heavy rainfall.

Two former west Fayetteville council members spoke on Tuesday, including Kyle Smith and Sarah Lewis.

Smith said West End is known as a last-chance option for affordable housing, and the city should continue working on projects that encourage more affordable residential options.

Lewis said she hopes the city can use the spirit of the proposal to help guide plans for the future. For example, she said acquiring undeveloped land could both save money and help the city stay one step ahead of flooding issues in certain areas.

Scroggin said it’s unfortunate that the city might lose some affordable housing, but it’s not a safe place for anyone to live.

“The people that move into a cheap place don’t need to be in a place that floods on a very regular basis,” Scroggin said. “Those (apartments) are barely habitable.”

Councilmember Mike Wiederkehr said if the offer is accepted, he’ll advocate for more than just a detention facility on the property. He said the council should push for something that is more attractive and engaging for the neighborhood.

Funding for the purchase would come from the $15.8 million drainage bond that Fayetteville voters approved in 2019.

Pugh said the city had first hoped to use federal grant money from the Flood Mitigation Assistance Program to help offset the purchase of the complex, but those funds won’t be available until the end of 2023.

Aside from not knowing if the property would still be for sale late next year, Pugh said the owner of the complex would likely need to move residents back into the apartments to generate income if they haven’t sold. At that point, Pugh said the total cost could increase dramatically if the new residents need to be relocated.