by Luke Jones
Posted 4/22/2013 12:00 am
Updated 10 months ago
Homebuilding is ramping up on a stretch of street in North Little Rock that was the subject of decades of debates and controversy.
The area in question is what Metropolitan Realty & Development LLC calls Fairway Cove, a cul-de-sac at the end of Fairway Avenue north of McCain Boulevard.
Metropolitan President Terry Paff said the process of developing Fairway Cove was so traumatic that he didn’t want to talk about it.
Two houses are already complete, and two more are under construction. Paff did say that the homes are all more than 3,000 SF and priced in the $400,000-$500,000 range. The company’s website lists 10 available lots in Fairway Cove priced between $70,000 and $80,000.
Metropolitan Realty was founded in the 1920s by Justin Matthews Sr. Matthews was responsible for the development of several of North Little Rock’s residential areas. (He also commissioned North Little Rock’s most famous landmark, the Old Mill.)
For years, the prospect of ever doing anything on a long-anticipated connection between Fairway in North Little Rock and Fairway in Sherwood was trapped in a sort of development purgatory.
It all started with a bridge.
Five Mile Creek crosses Fairway Avenue just north of its intersection with Somers Avenue. More than a decade ago, Metropolitan wanted to bridge the creek and extend Fairway into Sherwood, building houses along the connection. Fairway would have become a third connection between Sherwood and North Little Rock, along with JFK and North Hills boulevards.
But there were two problems.
“The developer thought it was too expensive to get the bridge in,” said Robert Voyles, director of community planning for North Little Rock.
When Metropolitan contacted local governments for assistance in building the bridge, Voyles said, there was support from Sherwood, but none from North Little Rock. A subsequent traffic study raised concern among residents about noise from traffic.
“The neighborhoods got organized, and they petitioned the aldermen to be opposed to the plan,” Voyles said.
Both cities squabbled over how traffic would change if the bridge was allowed to connect with Sherwood.
“The Sherwood people believed if it was connected it would have a fantastically large volume,” Voyles said. “I think it would probably not; it would probably only have 5,000 to 6,000 cars a day.”
In the end, Sherwood swung its vote and sided with the neighborhoods.
“Sherwood passed a law that said the developer could not, if it built the street, it could not connect with Sherwood,” Voyles said.
In 2000, North Little Rock erased the bridge from its master street plan. A group of residents who wanted the bridge sued the city over the issue.
Five years later, Charlie Hight, an alderman in North Little Rock, introduced an ordinance to put the bridge back in the plan. Residents of the local neighborhoods were again incensed and piled into North Little Rock’s city council chambers to make their opinions known.
Supporters maintained that the connection would relieve traffic in other parts of North Little Rock. Others felt that traffic would be disruptive.
With almost equal support on both sides, the council backed away from the issue.
In 2006, the suit finally ended with Pulaski County Circuit Judge Collins Kilgore finding that a private developer could build a bridge as long as it led to a subdivision rather than a continuation into Sherwood.
“The master street plan is a document that says if you build a street here you must build it according to this standard,” Voyles said. “It doesn’t say you can’t build a private, local street.”
Metropolitan took that option and built the bridge on its own. The extension of Fairway doesn’t connect to Sherwood and instead ends in the cul-de-sac.
Voyles said concerned residents still check in with the city to make sure Fairway won’t be connected with Sherwood. But that seems unlikely, especially now that a large home is under construction at the very end of the cove.
“I don’t think it will once those nice homes are built there,” Voyles said. “People believe bad things are coming. I don’t know how to change that.”