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POA works on trail project

by Lynn Atkins | July 21, 2021 at 5:28 a.m.

The Berksdale trail project was a topic at last week's POA board work session. The project includes a parking area, a short, circular trail, a playground and picnic area using part of the former 18-hole golf course. It was tabled last week while the board of the Property Owners Association gathered more input from the community. The project would be built by the Trailblazers at no cost to the POA.

The Northwest Arkansas Trailblazers have built the mountain bikes trail around Bella Vista with funding from the Walton Family Foundation. Where the trails use common property, that land is "licensed" to the group for 25 years since the POA cannot sell common property without a vote of the full membership.

General manager Tom Judson said his assistant, Tammie Loyd, read more than 500 comments, including many posts that appeared on Facebook. She confirmed that each post and each email received was from an actual property owner.

Judson said 317 comments were in favor of the project with 148 against. A few members were were undecided. The posts also showed some misconceptions. he said. For example, a portion of the course was closed due to flooding after a flood study was conducted that predicted damage would continue. The maintenance of the area was cut back in 2018. Also, he said, the greens were removed after the course was closed and it would be cost prohibitive to replace them. There is a deed restriction on the land, he said, so it cannot be developed commercially.

Answering a question, Judson said the POA would be able to help choose the playground equipment and he expected to ask for community input. He pointed out that the trail would be accessible for handicapped use and he thought the playground equipment might also be accessible.

Board member Sandy Fosdick said the POA should keep control of the property even if it is never used as a golf course. There may be other uses for the land that could bring in revenue, she said, and if the trail is built it will be "licensed" to the Trailblazers for 25 years.

Board member Jan Simms said she wasn't in favor of the project because of potential costs in the future.

The board was meeting as a work session so no vote was taken.

The total cost of the Gear Garden was higher than expected, Judson reported. The original estimates was just under $10,000, but the cost exceeded $10,000 which made it a capitol project that needs board approval. The board will probably vote on the project Thursday.

The costs were increased due to two issues, Judson explained. One issue was connecting to the sewer. Originally, the plan was to use a gray water tank, but the health department required the more expensive sewer hook up. Also, security cameras were added when it became apparent that some residents objected to the plan.

In spite of the increased costs, the Gear Garden is doing very well.

During the first two weeks total revenue was more than $5,000, which is more than $2,500 net profit. With only one employee and low overhead costs, the project may pay for itself during the first two months, he said.

Although votes are usually not taken at work sessions one was taken Thursday. The board voted to waive a three-bid policy for a water project replacing 62 feet of water line on Highlands Boulevard. Judson said only two bids were received for the project in spite of efforts by water operations manager Charlie Holt to solicit more bids. The two bids were similar in price, he said.

A policy that outlined when and how members can put a septic field on common property may be used this month. The policy only applies if a member has an established field that fails. A vote will be taken Thursday.

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