Residents voice drainage, traffic concerns as Bentonville planners updated on project

Neighbors express concerns over drainage, traffic, density

The hotel site is at the corner of Southeast A Street and East Central Avenue in Bentonville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

BENTONVILLE -- The Planning Commission on Tuesday heard an update on a proposed project at East Central Avenue and East Battlefield Boulevard.

Uncommon Developers proposes a planned unit development of approximately 8.78 acres that would consist of approximately 9,000 square feet of retail space, 40,000 square feet of office space, a 150-room hotel and 500 multifamily housing units, according to planning documents.

It is roughly a $200 million project, said attorney Bill Watkins, who represents the applicant and gave the project update Tuesday.

There is a request to have the property rezoned to planned unit development. The item was tabled by the applicant twice last year. If the rezoning is approved, the project would still need to go through large-scale development.

There were many public comments about the project last year, mostly about drainage and traffic. During public comment Tuesday, those concerns were brought up again as were a few others. Seven residents who live close to the proposed project stated their worries.

Kate Burkes voiced drainage and traffic concerns for the neighborhood she lives in. She also mentioned density.

"It's the scope of the project," she said. Burkes asked that the project be scaled back.

Lara Carr Duncan had questions about how infrastructure could be impacted by the development. She also thought it was too much density for the area.

Having a mix of housing types located near employment centers helps to lower traffic generally and placement of the buildings and park along East Central Avenue will add to the walkability of the area, according to planning documents.

The development would be close to the new Walmart Home Office campus, Watkins said.

The project has been modified to address concerns presented at the last public meeting. Another parcel has been secured, and the project has shifted toward East Central Avenue. The applicant proposes closing East Battlefield Boulevard to western traffic along the project's southern boundary and to construct a new road from East Battlefield along the project's eastern boundary to connect to East Central Avenue, according to planning documents.

Any road closure would need City Council approval, which could be included in the planned unit development approval if the City Council were to approval the project, according to planning documents.

Plans show a roundabout to the north of the property.

No action was taken by the Planning Commission on the item, which will be back before the Planning Commission on April 4.

An outdoor music festival was approved for an amended conditional-use permit 6-0 with one Planning Commissioner member absent.

FORMAT, a multi-day music, art and technology festival, will be held Sept. 22-24. The venue site is 3100 Price Coffee Road. This will be the second year for the event.

Applicant Avacaspar requested a conditional-use permit to utilize the property as an outdoor music venue, which is allowed conditionally in an agriculture zoning classification.

Avacaspar also requested approval for use of the "outdoor music venue" for five years. Some Planning Commissioners didn't favor a five-year use but agreed to a three-year conditional use.

One approved condition was amplified music be allowed until 1 a.m. Sept. 22-23 and until 10:30 p.m. Sept. 24.

Event officials noted there were complaints about music in the early morning hours last year.

Attorney Will Kellstrom, representing the applicant, said sound monitoring will be done throughout the event.

Lisa Richards, who lives near the site, described the noise levels at last year's event during public comment. She said she was disappointed in the three-year approval and said a year-to-year approval would be better.

Major amendments to the conditional use may require a new public hearing and approval by the Planning Commission.

The festival had traditional main and side stages for headlining acts, as well as several alternative settings where musicians performed -- hidden forest enclaves, an open-air pavilion, a converted disco barn and a multiroom speakeasy last year, according to a news release that announced the first event.

Conditional use approved

The other conditional-use permit approved by the Bentonville Planning Commission on Tuesday was for child care at 1106 N.W 10th St. for STEAMAhead@CanvasChurch.

Source: NWA Democrat-Gazette