This meeting was originally supposed to be held the Technology Center but was moved to room 326 of Fayetteville City Hall. The meeting opened with introductions of the members and an explanation of how the Town and Gown Committee had recently been reorganized and the change of scope of the committee.
After the previous meetings minutes were approved, Don Marr, the Chief of Staff for the City of Fayetteville and chair of the committee, asked if the committee would move the item about Lewis Park to the front of the agenda. The council all agreed, and Will Dockery representing #SaveLewis got up and presented the case for Lewis.
After presenting the argument that Lewis is utilized by university club sports, international students, and the local population and how changing the park will affect the city and the university the council members asked questions and had comments for further clarification. Several community members voiced their concern during the discussion.
After an hour of talking on the issue, Matthew Ramesy, a Community Citizen at Large committee member made a motion to recommend that the city should not prematurely cancel the lease at the end of December in light of the new information that has come to light about Lewis, and to allow all the stakeholders to be able to further sit down and figure out the issues surrounding Lewis Park. The motion was seconded by John L. Colbert, the representative for Fayetteville Public Schools.
The motion was voted on after a bit more discussion. The five Community Member Representatives all voted for the measure. The three City of Fayetteville Staff Representatives all voted against it — including Don Marr — who made it clear he was doing so as instructed from the administration. The three University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Representatives all abstained. That meant the motion passed 5-3-3.
We thanked the committee for their time and consideration.
The key takeaways from this meeting are:
We want to work with the City of Fayetteville, University of Arkansas, local businesses, and the citizens to #SaveLewis Park. Together, we can do great things and continue to make this one of the best places to live.
We need to show up, and show up in force, to the November 21st City Council meeting at 5:30 pm in room 219 of City Hall. If you would like to talk during the public comment section, please focus on the lease being terminated early. There are many reasons why the lease should not be terminated early. Focus on those.
Let’s keep it up.
In Fayetteville, City Council Agenda Sessions are used to determine the agenda for the next week’s full City Council Meeting. The Parks and Recreation Department recommended that the lease that the city has with the University of Fayetteville for Lewis Park be terminated early by six months. The resolution was put as an item on the Consent Agenda as item number 7. For those that don’t know, consent items are all voted on at once. They were invented to save time in meetings so each individual resolution or ordinance doesn’t have to be voted on. Some councils have reported saving hours using consent agendas. Consent items are supposed to be routine resolutions where there isn’t any concern or conflict. If there is any concern or conflict members of the public or elected officials are able to move it to a regular business item.
In Fayetteville, the only people who are able to talk in an Agenda Session are staff and elected officials. Additionally, the only people able to move items from the consent section to the regular business section are council members and the Mayor. This is a little concerning because if the whole council is on board with something they could completely ignore the will of the people, put something on as a consent item, and then vote for it with out the public being able to even comment on the matter.
Mayor Jordan went through some other business and then he got to our resolution. He read the resolution, “2017-0624 University of Arkansas Joint Lease Agreement Termination: A Resolution to terminate the joint lease agreement between the City of Fayetteville and the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas for the City’s use of 27.5 acres on Lewis Avenue and the University’s use of the 10.02 acres on Razorback Road, contingent upon approval by the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas.”
Connie Edmonston, got up and talked about the Parks and Recreation Department’s thoughts on the matter and their thought process for terminating the lease six months early.
Another staff member got up and talked about how the city had originally wanted to end the lease in June of 2017, but it got extended to the end of the calendar year. He also mentioned that they knew that the piece of land was for sale, but that Mayor Jordan had instructed staff not to pursue purchasing the land.
The council talked for a bit and Councilman La Tour said that as there was a contingent of people who wanted to speak about the matter and he would let them.
Councilman Kinion wanted to stress that the item that would be discussed at the next meeting would be about ending the lease early and not if the city should buy the land. Mayor Jordan agreed that would be the focus of this debate.
The resolution was then moved from the Consent Agenda to the first item of the New Business section.
We need to continue to write and call our council members. Every day if possible. If you haven’t done it yet do it today.
I had heard that Mayor Jordan didn’t want to #SaveLewis before from several city staff and others in-the-know. This meeting confirmed it. I’m a little confused that someone who continually boasts about his environmental record and creation of parks and open space would care so little about the current threat to Lewis. I would like more clarification from him on this issue.
We need to stay on topic about the lease extension and not the purchase when we, as the public, get our chance to speak at the council meeting on November 21.
Show up to the council meeting on November 21 at 5:30 in room 219. Its at the top of the stairs in City Hall.
You can watch the video of the agenda session at http://accessfayetteville.granicus.com/… the item for Lewis starts around 5:11 and runs to 10:37.
The meeting was held in room 111 of Fayetteville City Hall and started off like many advisory council meetings. There were five people there in favor of saving Lewis, a pair of developers, and several Boy Scouts. We were given five minutes to speak after the developers and a proposal for an Eagle project. This is roughly the speech that was given by Will Dockery:
“I appreciate the work that the parks and rec has done to build Kessler, especially with the knowledge that they previously had that Lewis would be repossessed by the u of a. However, now that the u of a is planning on selling the land and not using it for intramural fields it makes sense to me and a lot of other citizens over 400 and counting in Fayetteville to try and keep it as a park and open space.
Kessler just doesn’t have the capacity for demand already or in the future. According to the park master plan we should have at least 12 full size adult soccer fields. We have six at Lewis, two at walker, and three at Kessler. With the potential for just two more. Kessler still has millions of dollars worth of work that still needs to be done to get those two fields. If we could save Lewis, even at market value, which I believe the city and university could work something out, perhaps with the help of ngos and local businesses, which I already have pledges from a handful of businesses, it would still be magnitudes cheaper than finishing Kessler.
This is not even considering the cultural heritage of the fields. Many lower income adults and children and our.immigrant.community use Lewis where as they can’t use Kessler due to travel or other restrictions — you can walk to Lewis you can’t walk to Kessler, the lack of open space in that area of town if Lewis were to be developed and the fact that once this green space is gone it’s not coming back. New York city is commended for the forward thinking of central park to this day. I’m not saying Lewis is central park BIG but please think forward to 20, 30, 40, 100 years down the road and Lewis is in the down town part of our city. Where will the green space be?”
Joyce Richards also spoke in favor of Lewis Park. She mentioned how she has lived out next to Lewis since the 70’s and has seen the area be built up. She implored the council to think about where the green space would be if Lewis was gone. Joyce also asked them to consider the skyscape and the other intangible losses that would happen once Lewis was gone.
The Parks & Recs council members were very sympathetic to our cause. They encouraged members of #SaveLewis to talk to our city council members — especially those of us who live in Ward 2. Connie Edmonston, the Parks & Recreation Director, seemed to believe that there weren’t issues with Kessler and that it was adequate for the city’s needs. She also mentioned that they were going to recommend that the lease for Lewis be canceled early at the next city council meeting. I think we may have stepped on Connie’s toes a bit as she has worked very hard on Kessler Regional Park and she took the criticism personally. That was not our intention. She has done a good job getting Kessler built. In fact, we believe that Fayetteville needs Kessler, but we also believe that Fayetteville needs Lewis too.
There were some back and forth questions between the gallery and the council. Several council members even said that they were for our cause, but that there was not much they could do. It would be up to the city council and Mayor.
The meeting item was closed at that point as there was no further productive discussion and we thanked them for their time. The key takeaways from this meeting are:
We need to call and email our city council members. If you haven’t reached out to them about Lewis you need to do that today. http://www.fayetteville-ar.gov/247/…
We need to let our fellow citizens know about this issue. You need to talk to your neighbors and friends and let them know that Lewis will be for sale. Tell them to tell their neighbors and friends. Post it to your social media. Get the word out.
We need to start collecting signatures for a petition. Ultimately, it is going to come down to how many people in Fayetteville think it is more important to have a park and green space than be apathetic about more condos or apartments going up.
We need to show up, and show up in force, to the November 21st City Council meeting at 5:30 pm in room 219 of City Hall.
Thank you for you support. Together we will #SaveLewis.