Council approves new multi-family design standards

City moves ahead with fire training tower

FARMINGTON -- The city of Farmington now has new design standards for multi-family housing, and those most likely will first be used for a duplex on Hill Street.

Farmington City Council unanimously approved an ordinance at its May 8 meeting for the new design standards with a separate vote to approve an emergency clause so the standards would go into effect immediately.

Later in the same meeting, the council voted to rezone property at 152 W. Hill St., from R-2, single-family residential, to MF-1, multi-family residential, as requested by Ralph Siebert with Siebert, Inc.

City attorney Jay Moore explained that the planning commission recommended rezoning this property in 2019, before the council first voted in July 2021, to place a moratorium on any requests to rezone property to multi-family. This moratorium is still in effect.

Somehow, the planning commission's recommendation to rezone the property was not forwarded to be considered at the next city council meeting. The oversight was discovered when the developer recently came forward with plans to build the duplex.

The property is in a floodplain and the developer will have to apply for a floodplain development permit, city business manager Melissa McCarville told council members who wondered about the nearby creek.

Moore said Siebert, who owns other duplexes in the same area, also will have to comply with the new design standards for his duplex.

Council members had several questions before voting on the new design standards.

McCarville said the commission had worked on the standards for more than a year with the assistance of Courtney McNair, an urban planner with Garver engineering firm in Fayetteville.

Moore, who served on the planning commission before he was elected city attorney, said the commission wanted to update its standards for multi-family housing and give the city "some teeth" for requiring certain features for these developments.

McNair said the standards were comparable to standards in Lincoln, Tontitown, Centerton and Cave Springs but were not as strict as the standards in Fayetteville.

The standards focus on the overall quality of multi-family developments and the overall compatability with surrounding property, McNair said.

The standards require 6,000 square feet per lot size, and McNair said one acre of land would allow about six units.

"Your planning commission wanted to keep it less dense," Moore said.

When the floor was opened for public comments or questions, two people addressed the council.

Phyllis Young said she believes the more quality housing in Farmington the better for the community.

Hal Hanson said he supported the standards but also wondered if the council going forward should be prepared and aware of the need for affordable housing in Northwest Arkansas.

"Do we want affordable housing in Farmington?" Hanson asked.

The new design standards will require any garages to be placed behind the front building facade and will require a front porch per building. The front door has to be visible on each unit.

The ordinance addresses parking and the height and scale of multi-family buildings, prohibits an unbroken roof line and requires that the exterior building consist of a combination of certain materials.

The 22-page document applies to new multi-family developments that require a large-scale development review and approval, new multi-family construction, and additions or alterations to a building or site that is a total of 50% or more of the gross square footage of the existing building.

In other action, the council approved a bid for $270,350 from Lonestar Tactical for a fire training tower to be placed on the property with the public works building on Broyles Street.

Fire Chief Bill Hellard said the city received three bids and Lonestar's bid was the second lowest by around $1,000 but Lonestar was going to provide more than two times the space as the low bidder. He recommended the council accept the Lonestar bid, noting the company is building several fire towers in Arkansas and is a reputable company.

Hellard said the bid is just for the building made of shipping containers and the containers will be expandable and moveable. Other costs for the project will be a grading evaluation, concrete slab and fencing.

"This will be very well built and be here for a long time," Hellard said. "This will be a game changer for our department."

The council last month approved Hellard's request to seek bids for a training tower for an amount up to $350,000 from the general reserve fund.

The council also approved a resolution in support of an application for a grant for the police department to pay overtime for traffic control during certain holiday periods, an ordinance to adopt the 2021 Arkansas Fire Prevention Code and an ordinance to establish procedures for electronic funds transfers. The city already has procedures but state auditors recommended an ordinance to that effect.