A rezoning request from the Crystal Flats development was denied by the Bentonville Planning Commission in a 3-3 vote on Tuesday night. Crystal Flats needed four “yes” votes for approval of the Planned Unit Development request. Commissioners voted after the a half hour of public comment. A longer public hearing was previously held when the project was tabled at the July 5 meeting.
The meeting was moved to the Bentonville Public Library on Tuesday to accommodate the large crowd that was anticipated. Several hundred people attended the meeting and the vast majority spoke in opposition to the rezoning request. Most of the comments, as in previous conversations about the project, centered around traffic and density concerns. Many said they would welcome the project in a different location in the city but were not in favor of its planned placement. Those who spoke in favor of the project cited the city’s need for additional housing.
The developer had made several concessions in recent days after a month of discussions with opponents. But in the end, the vote proceeded with three “no” votes from Commissioners Tregg Brown, Jim Grider and Joe Haynie and three “yes votes” from Richard Binns, Greg Matteri and Rod Sanders. Commissioner Scott Eccleston was not present.
The developer has the option to appeal the rezoning denial to the City Council within 30 days.
A Progressive View:
We’ve been pretty transparent about our support for this project. We think the city needs diverse housing options, including higher density rental units. However, the opposition to this project was incredibly well-organized and spoke with a consistent and strong voice. At least a few hundred people in Bentonville are uncomfortable with the size and scale of Crystal Flats, and there weren’t a few hundred vocal supporters to balance that opposition.
Developers will have to determine their next steps, whether to appeal or pursue other paths. But as noted in a previous article, Crystal Flats has started a conversation about density and growth in Bentonville that needs to continue. There are some clear differences in what hundreds of vocal downtown residents want and what the city’s plans support. It’s one that city planners and leaders need to take the lead on, not developers on a project by project basis.
So, while we didn’t see the outcome we’d hoped for tonight, we did see community engagement at an inspired level. We hope those residents continue to stay engaged and help the city plot a strategic course for growth in Bentonville.