by Max Brantley
Ray Vogelpohl, who owns the Diamond TR Ranch near the Pulaski-Perry line and is chairman of the Pulaski County Planning Board, has recused from the board's consideration of land use rules for the Lake Maumelle watershed because of objections that he has a conflict of interest as a horse ranch operator in the watershed.
The board has nine other members.
The land use plan will be discussed at a meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday of the Central Arkansas Water Commission, which operates Lake Maumelle.
Vogelpohl's letter to county planning director Van McClendon follows:
In the past few weeks, as the discussion of the Land Use Plan for the Maumelle Watershed has reached a fevered pitch, I have heard from those on both sides of the debate who have expressed a concern that my participation in upcoming planning board meetings on the topic creates the appearance of a conflict of interest. It is my concern that that there are those who would seek political advantage by making the debate about my supposed conflict, instead of allowing the residents of the watershed and Pulaski county from having a fair and open debate about the merits of the proposed land use regulations.
As you, neighbors in the watershed, and those who have been involved with the Maumelle watershed issue know (and have known), I have been working with land trust groups and CAW for years to determine the appropriate role of easements as a tool to be used in the context of watershed management around Lake Maumelle. Other watersheds around the country have utilized this method for management of development within a specified land use area and I strongly believe it is a tool that could effectively be utilized in our watershed. I believe this tool meets the dual needs of limiting development over a certain amount of critical watershed acreage as well as protecting the rights of small and large landowners to freely exercise their individual property rights.
Although I recognize the significance attributed to the planning board in this process, I believe major decisions about land use regulations should be made by the elected representatives of the Quorum Court not unelected planning board members. I believe the appropriate role of the planning board in this process is to facilitate collection of public input to inform the elected representatives on the Quorum Court. I continue to maintain my belief that a final plan should be available for public comment at least 30 days prior to final board action, before sending it to the Quorum Court for a decision. I believe that I have been fair and impartial in my conduct of the meetings and in the process of seeking public input. But, given the recent comments as different stakeholders grasp for political advantage, it has become clear to me that I will, at minimum, no longer be considered a fair member of the planning board and, at worst, would be used as a distraction to disrupt and cloud debate on the real issues.
Therefore, I believe it is appropriate that I should recuse from all future planning board discussions and voting concerning the Land Use Plan for the Maumelle Watershed.
Feel free to share this with the other members of the planning board since I do want them to be aware of my reason for this action..