Fort Smith administrators approve a moratorium on a proposed military sale

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FORT SMITH — City managers have unanimously approved a moratorium temporarily halting residential construction around the Fort Smith Regional Airport to conduct a comprehensive study and possibly change the area’s building codes in preparation for the redevelopment program. foreign military sales.

Ebbing Air National Guard Base, which sits at the airport, was chosen last year as the Air Force’s preferred location for a pilot training center for Singapore and other countries participating in the foreign military sales program. The proposal would accommodate up to 24 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft and displace 12 General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Singapore Air Force, currently at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona. The program should house noisier aircraft. than those currently available to the airport.

The Department of Defense could also select Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, Mich., for the foreign military sales program if the city allows construction with a negative impact on the program. pilot training.

City Administrator Carl Geffken explained during the June 14 administrators’ study session that the solid study would prevent the city from unnecessarily expanding building codes and thereby wasting time and effort. money to builders.

“So to make sure we’re not wasting builders’ time trying to put in triple-glazed glass or adding extra sound insulation that’s not necessary,” he said.

Maggie Rice, director of planning and development, said Tuesday the moratorium area contains 5,945 acres, of which 2,297 are zoned residential. She said the moratorium will be in effect until Dec. 31, 2023 or until Fort Smith’s noise regulations are established.

“The moratorium does not prohibit the demolition, repair or remodeling of residential construction, the addition of accessory structures, fences or decks on residential property, commercial or industrial development, including hotels, additions to single family homes so long as it does not increase the gross floor area by more than 25%, the planning commission or planning department review of developments in the identified area,” she explained.

Two people planning to build large apartment complexes said they were affected by the moratorium during the study session, and a third person raised concerns about expanding their multi-family home during the meeting. Tuesday regular.

Geffken said the sound study is expected to be completed by September and the city is already hiring a firm to draft the resulting building regulations.

The Planning Commission plans to expedite discussions on any proposed regulations to lift the moratorium as soon as possible, Rice said.

“If it didn’t require Planning Commission approval – which the residents wouldn’t – then we could have it in place by the end of the year, assuming we get the information from the military environmental impact assessment, so we’re looking to do it much faster than that,” Geffken said, referring to the 2023 end date.

General Manager Kevin Settle said the foreign military sales program is expected to have an economic impact of $1 billion a year, and he thinks the scope is beyond what the city can comprehend.

“Let’s not do something that hurts the opportunity that Fort Smith is going to have, and the future of the city and the state,” he said. “When the governor is involved, when heads of state are involved, when country ambassadors are involved, it’s a big deal. And I know it’s a small sacrifice. We’re all going to do our part. And I understand what we are all doing together, this is what needs to be done for the future of our city.

“Ultimately, we are all going to benefit from this mission, and this mission here comes in large part from what they have discovered about the citizens of this city,” Mayor George McGill said. “These other airbases, they have runways, they have everything else, but I think one of the deciding factors was the people they met in that town.”

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