FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFSM) — Many business owners in Fort Smith set up shop in Chaffee Crossing in anticipation of Interstate 49 to expand through the area.
The interstate project has been delayed year after year due to a lack of funding but business owners say that isn’t the only thing setting them back.
A town hall meeting was held by Fort Smith Brewing Company Thursday (Dec. 19) to highlight what the Chaffee Crossing land is used for, how it was designed to be used and a lawsuit brought against the governing body that oversees this economic development.
Business owners stood up and spoke about their lawsuit with the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority.
“Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority sold me on this idea, this commercial walking district that was perfect for a brewery so I was like this is a perfect place to be,” said Quentin Willard, owner of Fort Smith Brewing Company.
The problem Willard describes is about land use. His business and a few others around the area are commercial properties, such as shops and restaurants.
In 2017 the FCRA, a public trust, began selling properties to industrial businesses which the lawsuit alleges was outside of the trust’s original plan for economic development.
“Very very frustrating. We were told one thing. Now they’re doing something else. And we have very limited options as to what we can do about it,” said Zach Coats, part-owner of JKC Sellars.
“It doesn’t look like there are gonna be too many commercial properties moving out unless we get some change,” Willard said.
Some businesses have had trouble selling their property to commercial businesses through FCRA so they’ve resorted to leasing the property to companies who fit the land use description.
“I decided that I needed to take matter into my own hands and put in towards the zoning and say this is what you sold me on and this is what I’m gonna turn it into and I will bring my business out here and succeed,” said Kraig Koren, owner of Premier Heating and Air.
The business leaders say their hopes are to fight this lawsuit over the land use and get back to the original plan.
“It’s about dollars going in and out of people’s pockets, creating revenue, creating taxpayers money, creating jobs,” Willard said.
The attorney representing the small businesses of Chaffee Crossing said his clients believe they were misled by FCRA’s master plan.
5NEWS reached out to FCRA officials but they were unavailable to comment.
This case was first filed back in May of this year. It is still in the early stages of the lawsuit.