by Max Brantley
I wrote on last night's open line about how I dragged out of the county planning director the admission of the obvious — an 11th hour change in a proposed Lake Maumelle watershed land use plan to dramatically increase potential residential housing in the watershed was inserted at the instigation of Deltic Timber, the dominant landowner in the area. The change could allow 8,000 more homes in the area when fully developed.
This prompted, late last night, a fine piece of commentary from a blog reader, "Ferndale." It's a can't-miss for those interested in the issue. It's about how the small rural landowners in western Pulaski and Perry counties, galvanized as opponents to "zoning" by a Koch-funded front group Americans for Prosperity and Deltic, are merely dupes for the manifest destiny of Deltic. These small landowners are effectively helping Deltic to a future where the rural nature of the area will be wiped away and, as the city grows to add thousands of new homes over time, solidly under the far more restrictive zoning controls of the city of Little Rock.
The black helicopter crowd, in short, need not fear the UN. The invader is already on the ground. Just look over the rise to the east to Chenal Valley.
UPDATE: Koch Companies and Deltic Timber employ the same contract lobbyist in Arkansas, Brent Stevenson Associates. Just saying. Now you can begin to get some understanding of why Teresa Oelke came down from Northwest Arkansas with her Americans for Prosperity claque to do for Lake Maumelle what development has done for Beaver Lake.
Read on for Reader Ferndale's commentary:
Max, I continue to read with amusement how the local yocals who live in the county in the Maumelle Watershed are being played by developers, corporations, and outside "property rights" forces who see this as their stand against the UN agenda 21. These poor country folks fail to see how they are being used as simple pawns in a large chess game to expand value for deltic and large developers; while the pawns ultimately lose both things that are important to them.
Know that the Deltic mission is to create long term value for shareholders. Clearly it is spelled out that they have quietly acquired large acreage for future development. The most profitable form of development is the Chenal model; not large multi-acre tracts.
So, here is how this plays out:
1) Deltic and the large developers including Bob Johnson use front groups and vocal special interests to rally the small landowners against the fear of zoning and land use restrictions — specifically and ironically the open space requirements. These limitations are blocked for now into the future. I'm guessing most of the landowners in the watershed ironically have fewer than 5 or 10 acres which most are not actually considering for development.
2) Deltic begins plans for development of their acreage. Starting close to Little Rock and slowly moving west. Conveniently, the water company is laying a large pipeline that could easily connect into the new developments and support significant residential usage. Clearly CAW is planning with long term development in mind.
3) As Deltic moves forward with development, Little Rock expands its planning boundaries and city limits thus imposing city planning and tight zoning on people who don't even get a vote on the rules.
4) The addition of the planning boundary restrictions, zoning, allows Deltic to preserve the type of development that is highest value and prevents less desirable neighbors (cheap trailer parks, trashy redneck houses, etc).
5) The rural watershed landowners wind up in a situation in which they are faced with encroaching development from Deltic properties with the inability to use their property as they would like due to planning boundary restrictions.
6) So, because the rural landowners banded together to prevent any density restrictions on the land in their community, they have neatly provided a course for both increased development density (thus taking away their rural, country lifestyle) and created a logical path for LR planning boundaries (which impose far more restrictive regulations than any county proposal), so for a short term perceived gain, the small landowners will lose on both accounts.
7) And that is the type of long term, strategic investment that a company with roots in timber farming and production would be would appreciate and manage. A few t-shirts and payments to front groups is inexpensive when the long term payback is considered. Slow, methodical development over time. Companies that plant stands of timber that mature in 20,30,40 years would see this type of long term future development as a relatively quick payback.
Remember that most of the small landowners live in the country because they a)want to not deal with zoning regs and b) they want space to raise their family. The old, it's time to move when you see your neighbor's chimney smoke.
I am a third generation Ferndale resident who has dealt with a similar path when Chenal was developed and slowly encroached on my family's property. First, the planning boundary was extended and then development came. I remember the community meetings in the '80s that attempted to halt the expansion of the LR planning boundary. It's always tough to fight city hall. It is extremely tough to fight city hall when you don't even have voting rights in the city. Wait until these country people in the watershed deal with that issue.
Can't wait to try to find this comment 10 years from now to see this prediction coming true. Might not even have to wait 10 years. Development is already planned and underway for the eastern edge of Lake Maumelle just outside the watershed. Important to note the proximity of the current planning boundary to that development.