Without warning or any clear rationale, this past October, the City Council of Fayetteville, Ark., proposed a zoning ordinance amendment aimed at restricting the width of residential driveways and thereby requiring garage entries to be to the side or rear of residential new construction. At the first reading of the proposed ‘driveway amendment’ several REALTORS® led by local board President-elect Don McNaughton attended the City Council meeting to speak in opposition to the amendment. When it became clear the City Council was unwilling to work together with stakeholders to craft a reasonable alternative, the REALTORS® took action with an Issues Mobilization Campaign.
Doyle Yates, a past-President of the 2,800-member Northwest Arkansas Board of REALTORS® and the , as well as a sitting member of the National Association of REALTORS®’ State & Local Issues Mobilization Support Committee, approached his local board offering to take the lead in requesting an NAR grant to launch a ‘public awareness campaign’ regarding the driveway ordinance. Yates had worked on a number of Independent Expenditure campaigns as well as a couple of Place Making grants, but had never been on the receiving end of an Issues Mobilization Grant. “It was a great experience,” he says. “The team was absolutely responsive and understanding that we only had about 30 days before the final vote to get the campaign off the ground. They lost no time in helping us do just that.”
To rally opposition to the restrictive driveway and garage zoning, the REALTORS® were able to build a coalition with their local counterparts in the homebuilding and mortgage banking industries. As Yates explains, the proposal had been drafted in a vacuum, apparently with no outside input; certainly none from REALTORS®or builders, who understand better than anyone what consumers want. So, it was necessary to alert the public, and educate them, and spur them to contact their councilmembers. The campaign had three parts: phone calls to voting property owners to raise awareness of the proposal; banner ads on news websites that led to a “Tell City Council to Keep Off Your Driveway” webpage leading to more detailed information; and a final push connecting patch-through calls directly to City Council members. On November 5, the vote failed in an even split (four in favor, four against,) with the mayor declining to break the tie.
Says Yates, “It’s now understood that citizens of Fayetteville have very little interest in these particular design elements for residential construction. Now, we’ll be picking up the ball and revisiting the idea of bringing together a group, including stakeholders this time, to find a way to move forward that makes more sense than imposing blanket restrictions on future housing in the community.”
On the subject of finding ways forward, he continues, “I know that, across the country, there are a number of local issues that can sometimes have a bigger impact on smaller communities than what’s going on at the state or national level. The REALTOR® Party has resources available to help with a wide range of these challenges, from zoning issues to affordable housing to placemaking. The committee I serve on, this year awarded a grant for $800, and I’m sure that it did as much good in the community that requested it, as other much larger grants accomplished in their respective communities. I encourage all local boards to investigate what the REALTOR® Party has to offer.”
To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Northwest Arkansas are minding the interests of local homebuyers and protecting the rights of local property owners, contact local board CEO, Rhonda Sims at 479-770-0241.