Justice of the Peace Pat Dicker makes a distress call. She says the Pulaski County Planning Board yesterday gave preliminary approval to three subdivisions proposed by Jay DeHaven in the western end of the Lake Maumelle watershed. Dicker says the land use departs dramatically from the suggested watershed management plan backed by Central Arkansas Water. DeHaven, a slippery operator with a checkered past, had been negotiating with the water company, but hadn't come to a firm understanding on the development.
In a surprise (CAW didn't learn about it until last Friday), DeHaven asked for plat approval yesterday on about 200 acres of the 965 he controls. The water utility appeared before the board to say DeHaven's proposal was close to complying with the watershed management plan, but officials asked for a deferral for more time to improve it. The board wouldn't have any of it. They gave DeHaven his green light, with some conditons.
The fear now is that DeHaven will use this approval as leverage to continue to pressure the water utility for concessions and maybe even money to aid development of land fraught with problems -- extreme distance from town; some ugly features, such as a major power line; poor water service, and a difficult housing market.
The real simple solution to prevent operators like DeHaven from nibbling off pieces of the watershed for problematic development is for Pulaski County to adopt an ordinance putting the watershed management plan into law. County Judge Buddy Villines has been reluctant to move forward on this, Dicker says. The reason perhaps is the shambolic state of county finances. It would cost money to enforce water protection standards in the county.
The cost of failing to do this, however, is nothing less than our water supply. It is too bad the county "planning" board is apparently controlled by folks who think property use is just about an absolute owner's right, no matter how much crap rolls downhill on somebody else.