Quorum Court amends Lake Maumelle watershed land-use ordinance



Back to the drawing board. The debate about a proposed zoning ordinance for the Lake Maumelle watershed has raged for years, and the ordinance was finally set for a vote this evening by the Pulaski County Quorum Court. But an amendment from JP Tyler Denton was approved by the quorum court, meaning that the amended ordinance won't be voted on until April and proposed zoning rules are in limbo.

The biggest news is that the amendment would delay implementation of the ordinance for four years. This appears to be a setback for the county and Central Arkansas Water, who had pushed the ordinance as a good compromise solution and a needed tool in protecting water quality in Lake Maumelle, a source of drinking water for more than 400,000 Central Arkansans. The amendment would put a moratorium on large-scale development during those four years. Landowners would only be allowed to subdivide five properties of three acres or less during this time.

The amendment would also increase prohibited uses and increase streamside buffers on the Maumelle River to 180 feet, though there is debate about whether these elements would actually strengthen the existing ordinance.

CAW officials said they need time to review the amendment in detail to figure out its implications.

"We continue to believe that zoning is an effective tool for watershed protection," CAW Watershed Protection Manager John Tynan said. "We've worked with stakeholders for two years on this zoning code and we believed that the proposal before us was a compromise that reached the goal of both watershed protection and flexibility for the landowners that live there."

Tynan said that CAW was committed to continuing to collaborate with landowners, environmentalists and other stakeholders.

In the days leading up to the meeting, environmentalists complained that the ordinance did not go far enough to protect the watershed while landowners griped they were getting a raw deal.

We'll update tomorrow with comments from the various relevant parties. Early indications are that landowners are pleased with tonight's events.

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