The election and Lake Maumelle | Arkansas Blog

The election and Lake Maumelle


Kate Althoff, the dogged Lake Maumelle watershed protector, asks for time on the issue and positions by the candidates for county judge. Granted.

October 30, 2008

I was on my way home from the Hospice Care facility late last night when I decided to stop at Kroger to buy a frozen dinner to eat.  To my surprise the October 30th addition of the Arkansas Times was already in the stands.  As I warmed my dinner in the microwave at home, I read the quotes from Judge Buddy Villines on the Lake Maumelle issue; I was not hungry any more.  I was just mad. 

When the average citizen like me is placing all their focus on meeting their daily needs, we need to know that the people we have elected into office are doing their jobs.   I want all to know that when it comes to protecting our drinking water, Judge Villines has not been doing his job.   Let me now set the record straight. 

Judge Villines claims in the article that when the Watershed Management Plan was developed, “no one requested input or guidance from any member of county government”.  That is simply a lie - a bald face lie.  Judge Villines personally appointed a member of the Pulaski County Quorum Court to represent the county on the Policy Advisory Council and guess what she attended each and every meeting and participated fully.  Judge Villines also personally appointed the director of his Planning and Development department to represent the county on the Technician Advisory Council and she too attended each and every meeting.  When this staff member requested to meet with Judge Villines to give him updates, he would not schedule a meeting. The truth is that Judge Villines assumed that these meetings would be like so many other committee and commissions - meet but result in little action.

I have been intimately involved in the issue of protecting Lake Maumelle since 2005.  During that time Judge Villines never acted as a leader in efforts to protect Lake Maumelle.  He should have been standing before the Quorum Court advocating for Lake Maumelle but instead he told the Quorum Court members during a regular meeting in the spring of 2006, “Do you realize how much it is going to cost to run for office if we get involved in this?” 

Judge Villines has only been a great obstacle in the efforts to protect Lake Maumelle.  Every time Central Arkansas Water sat down with Judge Villines he said, “no” we are not going to help.  The only difference between now and the beginning is that Judge Villines has moved from “Hell No” to o.k. if I have to, but I will only agree to changes in the subdivision rules and regulations that have some of the elements of the watershed management plan in it so it will give the illusion that I am doing something.  The reality is that Judge Villines has placed language in the proposed rules and regs that quotes the Plan but he removed the very heart of the requirements of the Plan – all restrictions on density of development. Additionally, he has provided no meaningful way to achieve the Plan requirements. He points to the Site Evaluation Tool but the way he has written it, the developer is the one who develops and administers the Site Evaluation Tool.  A true example of the fox guarding the hen house. 

Judge Villines states in the article that his plan to use the subdivision rules and regulations will result in the lake being protected “immediately.”  If Judge Villines really wanted to protect the lake immediately, he would have supported, advocated for a moratorium to prohibit development in the watershed until ordinances were adopted.  I can assure you that when this issue was before the Quorum Court he just sat there.  I can also assure you that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled years ago such action was legal in a case evolving the Lake Tahoe Regional Planning Authority.

In the article Judge Villines asserts that opponent Phil Wyrick does not know Arkansas Law.  The truth is Judge Villines does not understand Arkansas Law or he just does not want to use the law for its intended purpose – to protect the health and well being of the residents of the county. 

Arkansas Law provides the all counties with the authority to:
• Enact zoning
• Enact Zoning regulations in part of the county.
• Enact Zoning regulations in part of the county and the land use plan required before enacting the Zoning needs only be for that part of the county.
Arkansas Code Annotated (A.C.A)
§ 14-17-206.

Now Judge Villines likes to compare the demands of zoning the watershed to zoning North Little Rock and Little Rock in an effort to make it sound expensive and time consuming.  Well give me a break!!!  The vast majority of the watershed is classified as forest land.  Additionally the zoning required by the watershed management plan is very simplistic, especially when compared to the very intricate demands of a city.  All we need is minimum lot sizes of 5 acres or 10 acres depending on how steep the land is.  Even the existing staff in the county planning department could administer these rules. 
Another important statistic to remember when discussing Lake Maumelle, 35.5% of the land in the watershed in Pulaski County is owned by Deltic Timber.

I could write on and on.  The bottom line, Judge Villines has not been a  leader in the protection of our drinking water but truly just the opposite.  With all that is going on, the great financial crisis, the war in Iraq, increasing unemployment the last thing I need is to worry about my drinking water.  I am voting for Wyrick!!!

Kate Althoff


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