After hearing a presentation from the buyer, the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA) approved a land sale Thursday that its real estate review committee had previously rejected.
The land is to be used for a neighborhood of 41 houses, Stone Ridge, on Chad Colley Boulevard. The real estate review committee had rejected the offer because the houses are lower-end than nearby housing such as Stoneshire or the Reserve.
The neighborhood is intended to allow people under a certain income level to rent the homes while earning credit toward buying them, which they could do after 15 years, the buyer, Jim Petty of Fort Smith Housing Partners II Limited Partnership, said to the board Thursday.
"They are well put together, but they're basic, beginner homes," Petty said, noting that the are energy-efficient and have brick exteriors, high-quality insulation and two-car garages.
"Just because they're starter homes doesn't mean they're cheaply built," Petty said.
The homes have four bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Tenants must have good credit and cannot be convicted felons, Petty said.
The FCRA's approval is contingent on whether the buyer receives a federal tax credit.
"The one thing I like about it is the fact that I think that Chaffee has deferred to high-end homes and high-end opportunities for folks out here pretty exclusively," FCRA member Paul Beran said.
Chaffee Crossing needs homes that are affordable to more people, and this development would be an opportunity for people to lift themselves up and become homeowners, Beran said.
Although FCRA member Don Keesee said he would like to have the neighborhood at Chaffee Crossing, he voted to reject the offer after reiterating his original concerns about where the neighborhood will be. He said that although the Stone Ridge houses are good homes, the Stoneshire and Reserve residents may object.
"(It's) a very needed project. I have zero issues with the project, but we're talking about substantially smaller and less expensive properties than are existing right there — right next door neighbors," Keesee said.
The company has developed similar neighborhoods in other cities such as West Helena, Van Buren, Forrest City and Wynne.
The sale is $180,000 for 15 acres.