Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview
Overview of Fayetteville, AR

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Property tax relief for Arkansas homeowners

The words tax and relief aren’t often found in the same sentence but Arkansas has some provisions to help relieve the property tax burden on homeowners. With income taxes on most people’s minds this time of year and property tax bills now arriving in mail boxes, I thought this would be a good time to mention some of these benefits.

The technical name is Amendment 79 but it's frequently referred to as the "homestead exemption." The benefits are easy to understand and easy to get.

A credit of $300 per year is available to lower property taxes on a person’s principal place of residence. Notify your county assessor once and the credit will be applied to your tax bill every year as long as the property remains your principal residence. There is a short form which must be filled out (see below).

Another provision allows homeowners age 65 and up to have their appraised evaluation capped. The result is that taxes on your home will never increase due to a reappraisal. But bear in mind, a major improvement to your property can increase the appraised value and a change in the millage rate will also affect the amount of tax you must pay. To have your evaluation capped, you must be age 65 or older on January 1 of the year you apply, complete a simple form and send it with proof of age to your county assessor.

Homeowners who are disabled as defined by the Social Security Administration also qualify for the cap on appraised value regardless of age.

For more details, go to http://www.arkansas.gov/acd/faqs.html.

The Washington County assessor has an explanation of Amendment 79 at
http://www.co.washington.ar.us/Assessor/Am79.htm. This is a one-page website and if you read the paragraph above the assessors address, you’ll find a link to the claim form or go directly to http://www.co.washington.ar.us/Assessor/forms/hswbform.pdf.

If your home is located in Benton County, you can access the form at

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Northwest Arkansas in general and Bentonville in particular will take on a new personality when Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opens. Benton County is already facing phenomenal growth with homes, offices, businesses, huge shopping malls, and a brand new hospital popping up all over former agricultural land.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art plans to open in 2009 on 100 acres in Bentonville, not far from Sam Walton’s original 5- and 10-cent store. The museum will house the private collection of American art that Sam’s daughter, Alice Walton, has been quietly collecting for years.

It is estimated that each year approximately 250,000 visitors will come to see not only this fabulous collection but also sculpture gardens and collections on loan from other museums.

Just think: once-quiet Bentonville will become a destination for art lovers. I’m sure the museum and its programs will provide cultural, educational and economic benefits to the area that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. With the population of our area of NW Arkansas expected to reach a million people by the year 2025, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art promises to become an incredible asset.

For a glimpse of the planned building and some of the art, go to the museum's website http://www.crystalbridges.org/

Bella Vista – will it remain a village or incorporate as a city?

Bella Vista is another area of booming NW Arkansas that has seen its own share of incredible growth. The village, as it is still known, was started some 40 years ago as a place for retirees to enjoy living among lakes, trees and golf courses. It is located north of Bentonville, just south of the Missouri border.

Since inception the quiet village has grown tremendously. It is estimated there are some 24,000 residents now – up from 16,500 in 2000. No one sees growth slowing anytime soon.

Roads have improved and Bella Vista is increasingly becoming home to families with children. Rush hour traffic clogs the streets as residents commute to jobs in surrounding cities.

The question now on everyone’s mind is whether to incorporate. The issue will be on the November 2006 ballot. As an individual, I can't influence the issue one way or another, but it occurs to me that a community the size of Bella Vista should be a municipal entity, not a private one. The people currently support their entire infrastructure by paying monthly assessments - police, fire department, roads, library, recreational facilities, and much more. The majority of the taxes they pay are not returned to the village because it is not incorporated. The incorporation issue is of paramount importance and I urge all current and potential residents to learn all they can before the election.

For more information go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bella_Vista%2C_Arkansas or http://www.incorporatebellavista.com

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Good News/Bad News for the Springdale Northern Bypass

The U.S. 412 bypass of Springdale has received a record of decision from the Federal Highway Administration. Now all that needs to be done is to figure out how to pay for it! The estimated cost currently stands at some $300 million with only $31 million in combined federal and state funds earmarked for the 20-mile highway.

Ten years have passed since a study of alternatives for the bypass began in 1996 and it will be many more years before it is even partially constructed. With the escalating price of land in the area it seems obvious that costs will only go one way – up. “This project has to have federal money,” said John McLarty, transportation planner for the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission. “It’s just too big.”

Highway 412 is a major east-west route through Springdale for traffic coming to and from Tulsa area as well as off Interstate 540. No one argues the need for the bypass, which is expected to channel much of the truck traffic around the city. However, it appears the bypass will have to be built in segments, as funding becomes available. It may take until the year 2030 before the road nears completion.

As I mentioned in my posting March 6, “A Western By-Pass? Great Idea!” (scroll down to read the article) other roads are being planned to alleviate gridlock in Northwest Arkansas, but the 412 bypass is scheduled to come first. We must find a way to get moving on all these projects, the sooner the better.

For more information:http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/147680/

Monday, March 06, 2006

New Mall in Rogers, How Development Has Occurred

An interesting special report in the NW Arkansas edition of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette last Sunday, March 5, details the who and how of all of the construction going on with regard to the new mall and surrounding development. This mall promises to be a “shopping mecca” for the area, and there is certainly a lot of dirt being moved around as well as buildings popping out of the ground at a rapid pace. In a sense, it is the essence of the growth happening in Benton County, as subdivisions spring up almost daily. And in the near future people living in those subdivisions will have convenient shopping, without having to drive to the NW Arkansas Mall and surrounding stores in Fayetteville. Good for consumers in Benton County, maybe not so good for owners of the shops in the Fayetteville Mall.

For the complete article: http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/147652

High prices drive homebuyers to outlying areas

Living outside the main areas of employment and having to spend time and money commuting has long been a way of life for many people nationwide. And increasingly, Northwest Arkansas is no exception. Finding a nice home for less than $150,000 in Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers or Bentonville is nearly impossible these days. That means people have to choose between renting, which offers no hope of equity or appreciation, and commuting to and from one of the outlying “bedroom” communities. For example, Rogers issued 375 building permits in the last 3 months of 2005 for homes with an average price of $177,989. Compare that to the average prices for homes in Gravette ($91,186), Decatur ($65,000), and Gentry ($77,500). With the cost of gasoline still at record high prices, the commute may be a trade-off, but with affordable homes rapidly disappearing in the 4 major towns of NW Arkansas, these outlying areas are the only hope for those wishing to purchase a home, building equity for the future, and acquiring a piece of the American Dream.

For more information: http://nwanews.com/adg/News/147089/

Water Supply--Another Challenge for NW Arkansas Growth

Officials say there’s enough water in Beaver Lake to satisfy the area’s needs to between 2031 and 2049. The challenge will be getting that water to the homes and businesses of the thousands of people who are flocking to the area every year.

Beaver Water District, the primary water source for Northwest Arkansas, supplies water to Fayetteville, Springdale, Bentonville and Rogers and surrounding areas. The mandate of the district is simple but exacting; “We have to provide the water that people demand,” Beaver Water District Chief Executive Officer Alan Fortenberry said.

In an effort to provide clean water to its customers, the district is working with counties surrounding Beaver Lake to restrict development in the watershed to ensure development doesn’t endanger the water quality. Some oppose the restrictions because land for development is in demand. But Fortenberry said not protecting the water supply from pollution would require the district to increase treatment, which would increase the cost of water charged to customers.

The water situation affects not only the major towns but also some of the smaller communities of the area. For example, Bentonville is about to begin a $15 million project to lay 13.77 miles of 48-inch water line to bring in water from Beaver Lake by the summer of 2007, city utilities director Britt Vance said. Bentonville and Rogers now share two water transmission lines, one 24 inches wide, the other 30 inches. Together, they can transport up to 29.5 million gallons of water a day to the two cities, which limits the amount of water that can be pumped to each. Completion of Bentonville’s project will help alleviate Rogers problems because Rogers plans to pay Bentonville $7.4 million to take over as the sole user of the 24- and 30-inch lines after the Bentonville project is completed.

For smaller communities, a good example is Lincoln. In February 1995, 270 rural residents signed up for water from Lincoln, which would require about 85 miles of water lines. In March 2001, when the town got funding from the Agriculture Department’s Rural Development, the project included 462 households and 106 miles of pipeline. Now the project embraces more than 800 households and requires 135 miles of water line at a cost of around $7.5 million, and by the time the project is completed, Public Works director Chuck Wood said there could be as many as 900 families drawing water from the new lines. Towns like Gentry, Gravette and Harrison have also just finished large similar pipeline projects to provide more water for their rural neighbors, he said. “This whole area is just booming,” Wood said. “The only thing that we can do is build more infrastructure to get water to them.”

For more information: http://nwanews.com/adg/News/147078/

A Western By-Pass? Great Idea!

Planners and elected officials in Northwest Arkansas are eyeing a four-lane highway to cut through western Benton and Washington counties and avoid additional gridlock on Interstate 540. It doesn’t have an exact location, nor money to pay for it--yet.

The Northwest Arkansas Council, which includes some of the region’s wealthiest and most influential people, has placed the proposed highway on its list of road projects it deems important to the region’s future. And a committee of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission has included the highway, known as the western bypass, in the draft of a 2030 long-range transportation plan the commission will hand over to the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department next month.

The proposed highway wouldn’t be constructed until after a western bypass of the Bella Vista stretch of I-540 and a U.S. 412 bypass north of Springdale are completed, according to John McLarty, the transportation planner for the regional planning commission. “But it’s not too early to begin planning the road.”

The western freeway is a great idea, and it’s encouraging to note that planners are starting to think in longer terms. It takes years to go from identifying the need to completing the project, and it is essential to get this project in place while there is still sufficient, undeveloped land available. The 412 bypass has been delayed again and again by impact studies while the areas where the original three proposed routes might have been built have been filled up with new homes. And since the 412 bypass won’t be built for many years due to funding deficits, maybe these planners can begin getting their proposal to legislators so that when the project is ready, the funding will be there.

In the meantime, there will have to be improvements and additions to I-540. Twenty-five years is a long time for the western bypass to become a reality. But knowing that planners are even thinking about it is a start.

For more information: http://nwanews.com/adg/News/147123/

GROWTH - Outward or Upward?

OUTWARD GROWTH is the current norm along the Interstate 540 corridor in Benton and Washington counties, and this worries some city planners and elected officials. They want to see developers build upward, filling in existing city space with denser developments such as multistory apartments.

Dense, upward development leads to more people living per square mile, less cost to the cities to provide water, roads and other services, and less need for outward development of rural land, said Steve Luoni, director of the Community Design Center in the School of Architecture of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

But people have been slow to embrace UPWARD GROWTH according to Fayetteville’s Senior Planner Jeremy Pate, “It’s going to take a while to slow down outward development. People want to live at the end of a cul-de-sac.”

Developers say they are building houses outward from the cities instead of upward with denser apartments and condominiums because that’s what people want and that’s where they can make a profit. They built 36,201 new housing units in the four major cities from 1990 to 2004. About 63 percent of those were single-family dwellings, according to statistics from the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission.

“Primarily, that’s what the market demands. People don’t want ‘up’ — not around here,” said Gary Brandon, who is building several subdivisions on the western edge of the I-540 corridor, including one of 117 acres between Lowell and Cave Springs and another of 54 acres on the outskirts of Tontitown. “They’re not that keen on condos yet.”

Kathy Deck, associate director of the UA Center for Business and Economic Research, said the growing population will continue to demand homes on the outskirts of town. Condos will not appeal to families until the price of gasoline becomes too high or traffic becomes too congested to commute from outlying communities, she said.

Richard Alexander, a developer of condominiums and mixed-use buildings in central Fayetteville, would agree. He said his market is based on the downtown location of the projects and will appeal to people because they won’t have to drive to go shopping or to the university. “There is that niche looking for a lack of a commute,” said Alexander.

Even though cities are spreading, some officials say the finite supply of land and market forces eventually will make upward growth the norm in Northwest Arkansas. “Our land space is dwindling,” said Rogers Alderman Mark Kruger. “At some point we will run out of space, and up will be the only way to go.”

For more information: http://nwanews.com/adg/News/147079/