No decision yet on Stearns Street extension in north Fayetteville

City Council members on Tuesday voted to table the discussion for the second meeting in a row.
(City of Fayetteville)

FAYETTEVILLE — It will be at least another two weeks before a decision is made on whether to connect the two dead ends on both sides of a street on the north city of town.

The City Council on Tuesday voted 6-2 to table a discussion about the proposal, which would bridge a roughly 250-foot gap on East Stearns Street, creating an east-west route from Old Missouri Road to Vantage Drive. It was the second meeting in a row that the council held off on a vote.

The eastern segment that connects to Old Missouri Road was built in the late 1980s as part of the Brookhollow residential subdivision. The western section that connects to Vantage Drive, was constructed in 2018 as part of a commercial subdivision. The gap includes undeveloped city right-of-way that a neighboring subdivision’s property owners’s association has used for maintenance purposes and has built a shed.

When the commercial subdivision was built, the city collected nearly $21,000 in fees from developers to put toward the connection. Public Works Director Chris Brown said that money must be spent by 2025 or it will need to be refunded, so city staff are looking to get the project started before it’s too late.

The city held a public meeting in July and surveyed residents to gauge support for the $482,000 project. Staff said the responses were quite polarized, with most responses being either “highly supportive” or “highly opposed” to the connection.

The Planning Commission in September voted 8-1 to recommend approval of the connection, and the Transportation Committee in November voted 4-0 in favor of the project.

During an initial discussion in January, Councilmember Mike Wiederkehr said he was in support of the connection, which has been on the city’s master street plan for about 30 years. Wiederkehr said as the city grows, Fayetteville needs as many east-west connections as it can afford to build.

Several residents who spoke during public comment said they’d prefer the connection not be made. Some said they thought it would make an unsafe traffic situation, one said they didn’t think it would help alleviate any traffic issues, and another said it was too costly of a project.

City of Fayetteville

Councilmember Sarah Bunch said if the connection had been made sooner it could’ve already solved some existing traffic issues on the surrounding streets. She said she understands that some neighbors would prefer things not to change, but she’ll support it, especially considering the project has been on the master plan for so many years.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Brown showed the council a revised conceptual drawing of the connection with the road built slightly farther south and without a sidewalk on the south side. He said some council members had asked if that was possible in order to move the road farther from an existing home.

Councilmember Scott Berna said considering the new diagram that was presented Tuesday, he’d like to table the discussion to give the residents a chance to think about it.

Brown said the updated diagram is not an actual design of the project, but was meant to show that a realignment is possible within the space available. Once the budget is approved, he said, design would begin after that.

Council members Berna, Wiederkehr and Bunch, along with D’Andre Jones, Teresa Turk and Holly Hertzberg voted to table the discussion. Councilmembers Bob Stafford and Sarah Moore voted against holding the item, and said they were ready to support the proposal.

Moore said the vote isn’t about design, but whether or not the connection is needed, which it seems clear that it is.

“The diligence has been done,” said Moore.