The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority will hold off on attempting to retrieve land being held for Fort Smith Public Schools after a discussion with school administration Thursday.
Last week, the authority's real estate review committee and Executive Director Ivy Owen came to a consensus that it was time to ask the school district to give back more than 70 acres set aside for the district. Fort Smith Public Schools is seven years into a 10-year agreement with the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority to either develop the land or give it back, allowing the authority to sell it to other entities. The agreement was signed under a different school administration, and its original intent was to be used for a third high school. A third high school is no longer in the works, and the district has not moved on any development.
Superintendent Doug Brubaker was at the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority's Board of Directors on Thursday. Brubaker, who became the superintendent in January 2017, spearheaded a semester-long strategic planning process and facilities assessment to evaluate the district's buildings, leading to a five-year plan adopted by the school board in January. Since then, a volunteer committee has come up with a proposal with more than $120 million worth of projects that it will present to the school board later this month. The school board is expected to decide if and how much of a millage increase will be placed on the May 22 ballot to afford the projects.
"We're nearing a point where we're going to be bringing some things to the (school) board for consideration and one of the things involved — well there are several different options that could potentially involve this site," Brubaker said. "And so my concern is I just wanted to make sure the board had all those options available to move forward and there is a definitive timeline. We're considering some of these options this spring and so it's not just in the distant future. There will be some decisions made in the near future, I believe. I just wanted to make sure that they had the opportunity to weigh in and discuss what our next steps are. It's really more of a concern about timing than anything."
Paul Beran of the redevelopment authority's Board of Directors said that land sale offers on land being held for the district should be tabled until the district decides what to do, adding that the authority is ethically compelled to honor its agreement, which still has three years left.
"The school district has three years left to decide what they want to do with that piece of property, and so we need to protect that property until the school district comes to us and says, 'we're not going to something with it' or 'we are going to do something with it,'" Beran said.