by Max Brantley
I doubt this is reaching many average voters, but I still think it's great that the county judge's race has featured fierce discussions about protecting the Lake Maumelle watershed. Wonkery gone wild. That's good.
On the jump: Buddy Villines says activists have misinterpreted his position on land use issues.
To: People interested in protecting the Watershed
From: F.G. “Buddy” Villines
County Judge/Chief Executive Officer
Date: October 9, 2008
Re: Position on the Watershed
Again, this time in the person of Ms. Kathy Wells, my position on the
Watershed has been grossly misrepresented. In this case she said I had
changed my position. Wrong. My position has been consistent. At the first
public hearing on the proposed subdivision ordinance, I said that if I had
my “druthers,” nothing would be developed in the Watershed. That not being
possible, and because the county did not have a zoning ordinance, nor the
capability or capacity to enact one now, we should enact the subdivision
ordinance, incorporating the science of the plan, to insure nothing is built
that will harm the Watershed.
On July 29, 2008, Ms. Karla Burnett presented the subdivision ordinance to
the Little Rock Board of Directors. She clearly stated that the County’s
position was that the subdivision ordinance was the first in “…an ongoing
evolving process….” (from the Watershed Management Plan).
On August 26, 2008, I wrote a letter to Ms. Annie Abrams, President of the
Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods. The pertinent paragraph follows:
“Perhaps the Plan itself said it best. “CAW, ratepayers, and other
stakeholders should expect that implementation of the Watershed Management
Plan will be an ongoing, evolving process for many years to come. The Plan
provides recommendations for how CAW, local governments, resource agencies,
non-governmental organizations, and other interested parties can work
together to coordinate plan implementation and ongoing adaptive management.
Such an adaptive approach will provide for long-term protection for Lake
Maumelle, allowing for management to be responsive to the dynamics of the
watershed.” The Plan itself recognizes that it will take years to implement
in its entirety-and, because the plan is based on a build out in the
Watershed that is expected to take place over many, many years-we have time
to work toward full implementation. The proposed Subdivision Rules and
Regulations are intended to be the County’s first step in this “ongoing,
In conclusion, if you want to know my position, call me. The information
you are receiving is obviously unreliable.
Nowhere in any previous statement - quoted here or elsewhere - does the
county judge say he will zone land in watershed, and will zone large lots, 5
to 10 acres, as the Watershed Management Plan calls for officials to do.
Many have urged the county judge to accept this Plan recommendation, and he
has refused. In fact, last week, there were three occasions that marked
continued unwillingness to support large lots and the zoning required to
bring about large lots in development around Lake Maumelle.
At a Candidate Forum hosted by the Coalition of Greater LR Neighborhoods, on
Fri. Oct. 3, neither I, nor my colleague, Pres. Annie Abrams of the
Coalition, heard the county judge support large lots or zoning. he said a
land-use plan would be required first, and that would take a year, and he
offered subdivisions rules to protect the drinking water now. he did not say
he would seek to establish zoning. TetraTech, water utility consultants, has
debunked that subdivision proposal, as having invalid science, in the April
2 memo discussed previously.
In company with other advocates for our drinking water, I met with Chairman
Eddie Powell of the Central Arkansas Water Commission, on Tues. Sep. 30,
and with Commissioner Roby Robertson, on Thu. Oct. 2. Both told us they had
failed in repeated attempts to persuade Villines to change his position, and
to support large lots, and the zoning that would be required. We met to
consider how we might, together, find support to implement the Management
Plan. We were mutually stymied when we parted company, finding no approach
to make to the county judge, whose position had not altered over months of
encounters, as we saw it.
Something changed between Oct. 3 and Oct. 7, when Villines told those at
another Candidate Forum he would support subdivision rules immediately, and
that zoning would come later.