foot trails

Springdale moves campsite for trails a step forward

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SPRINGDALE — The City Council has taken another step on the trail of allowing a campsite on Fitzgerald Mountain.

The council on Monday, working as a committee of the whole, moved the campsite on for a council decision, but without a recommendation for approval.

Mayor Doug Sprouse said he liked that decision, considering three council members, Mike Overton, Mike Lawson and Jeff Watson, did not attend the meeting.

Zach Brothers, a Springdale real estate investor, proposed a camping area for mountain bikers on about 6 acres he owns on Bitter Lane, adjacent to the Fitzgerald Mountain trails.

The Planning Commission rejected his request on Oct. 5. Brothers appealed the decision to the City Council, which voted last week to table the proposal for discussion in Monday’s committee of the whole meeting.

Residents with property nearby have opposed the campground at every meeting.

Brothers brought to the council on Monday a reduced plan. He requested two 20-by-40-feet spaces for parking of recreational vehicles shorter than 26 feet, with no more than four people per vehicle. And each camping vehicle must include a self-contained toilet, he said.

Both residents and city officials raised have concerns about sanitation as Brothers tries for approval of his campsite.

Brothers’ original proposal included primitive campsites for tents and vehicles, but no bathrooms. He wanted guests to “pack it out,” and said this was common among bicyclists who want to camp near the trails.

Brothers said he now plans a feasibility study for an on-site restroom.

He said he plans to use the website hipcamp.com to rent his campsites and has talked to the owners of the site about the concerns of neighbors. He noted hipcamp leaders suggested sites for only vehicles that are self-contained until the study was completed.

Ramona Latham, who lives to the south of Brothers’ property, thanked Brothers for limiting his plans, but she still raised concerns.

“If a dumpsite is not available, people will just dump it on ground,” she said, referring to her internet research.

“To be fair, he is addressing one of your big concerns if he plans to build a restroom,” Sprouse replied.

“For now,” Latham said. “Even in his language tonight, he has talked about expanding. That’s his thought process.”

She continued to speak about protection of the neighbors’ private property. The neighbors requested Brothers build an 8-foot privacy fence along the south side of his property.

Latham voiced concerns about the campsite lowering the value of adjacent properties.

“I wish I had somebody here to back me up on this because I’m hearing property values are doing nothing but going up as the trails are being built,” Brothers said. “I thought being near the Razorback Greenway increased property value.”

Brothers’ latest proposal to council included a home-quality fire extinguisher and rain barrel with hose at the site in case a campfire should burn out of control. He previously had planned a fire ring at every campsite, but limited the site to one residential-size fire ring for the camping community in the face of neighbors’ worries.

He also included quiet hours following the city’s guidelines, which prohibits loud noise “if it offends someone of reasonable sensibilities,” quoted Ernest Cate, city attorney.

Brothers added, that if the noise of recreational vehicles’ generators was too loud, he would consider hooking to a power pole on site for electrical service.

Brothers noted that property lines, rules for campfires, bans on dumping and more will be listed on the booking site and posted on signs throughout the campground.

“I appreciate your changes,” Council member Randall Harriman said. “But the main reason I am against this is because it’s in a SF2 zone.” The city’s SF-2 zone calls for low density, single-family homes.

“With that zone, there are certain assurances there will not be a … well, a campground next to your house,” Harriman continued. “That’s not what you’d expect to be your neighbor in an SF-2 zone. I don’t want porta-potties next to my house.”

Patsy Christie, director of the city’s Planning Department, noted a campground is allowed in the zoning.

Brothers’ initial ask of the Planning Commission was a conditional use of his land as allowed under city code.

Christie said the city’s zoning codes allow cultural, recreational and health facilities in the single-family zone. She said Brothers’ campground is listed in the code as an approved recreational use and also matches the city’s definition of a campground.

“If you decide it doesn’t belong there, we need to change the ordinance,” she said. “He’s not asking for something that’s not allowed.”

Harriman noted that the current zoning of the land doesn’t allow people to park campers on the grass or on gravel, which is where Brothers’ guests would park.

Sprouse said city officials are loosening that requirement to allow start-up businesses to determine the success of their ventures before investing in concrete.

“It’s on the side of the mountain that has world-class bike trails,” Brothers said. “Sometimes it makes sense.”

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