I have been highly sympathetic to the group working for tough land use rules in the Lake Maumelle watershed and share their belief that the proposed ordinance before the Quorum Court next week was written too permissively to benefit major landowner Deltic Timber.
But here's the political reality, which County Judge Buddy Villines has articulated: The chances of the Quorum Court toughening the ordinance are almost nil. The chances of the Court making it far worse are very great.
I say this having seen, in a communication from the Arkansas Farm Bureau (a name that should send shivers down the spine of any good environmentalist) the shape of the "compromise" that conservative Republican JPs are floating to defeat the Villines-backed plan. It would be a sham of land use protection. And it comes with a proposal in the embryonic stages to have taxpayers pay to pave hundreds of miles of the gravel roads in the watershed. This would be to prevent runoff, see. In fact, it would be a superhighway to development at taxpayer expense and avoid the real future problem of chemical runoff from 39,000 homes in the Pulaski portion of the watershed alone.
The Farm Bureau lists such good government players as the League of Women Voters and Citizens Protecting Maumelle Watershed as its allies in this fight. This should be a laughable statement. But, as a practical matter, they now are. To which I say: NOTHING good ever came of getting in bed with the Arkansas Farm Bureau. It is sad to see advocates for the watershed throwing in with them for the short-term gain of killing the pending land use plan. They will rue the day.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention the land use ordinance goes before committees of the Quorum Court tonight. At least one must give a majority vote for it to be considered by the full court next week. Fireworks can be expected.
AND TO BE CLEAR: Though the Farm Bureau lists the League of Women Voters and CPMW as allies in the fight against the pending land use ordinances, it is being grossly misleading. The League, though it wants more controls, supports the ordinances. The Citizens group is not, to put it mildly, joining hands with the Farm Bureau.
Part of the Farm Bureau communique follows:
Arkansas Farm Bureau and Pulaski County Farm Bureau Oppose the Lake Maumelle Watershed Proposed Zoning Ordinance.
1.) Farm Bureau supports water quality and is NOT opposed to zoning. But this document does not take into account the impacts of zoning the small landowners not intending to develop their property. It is irresponsible to treat the small landowner as a big developer while hiding behind the blanket of water quality.
2.) There is no need to rush a document of this nature through so quickly. No one has even used the Site Evaluation Tool (SET) since it was put in place in June 2010.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I received this note from Allen Engstrom, a member of the County Planning board, in response to point 2.
Max, I’m on the Pulaski County Planning Board and the statement from the Farm Bureau, item (2) is just flat out untrue. The SET tool has been used and been used—successfully — many times over.
3.) The people who are going to be so negatively impacted by this ordinance do not even have the luxury of the clean drinking water provided by CAW.
4.) According to CAW, the major cause of pollution is sediment runoff from the 194 miles of unpaved roads within the Watershed. If we are concerned about water quality, then why aren’t we addressing this issue?
5.) Exxon has a 20 inch pipeline running through 14 miles of the Watershed. In several places, this pipe is exposed and running alongside tributaries to the primary source of drinking water. The pipe was built in the 1950’s and one can only imagine the damage to Lake Maumelle should damage ever occur to this pipeline. CAW and Exxon Mobile has both publicly expressed the need for upgrades and maintenance to this pipeline. This should be a top priority for the County. An oil spill from this pipeline could do more damage to the drinking water in 1 hour than all of the development that could occur in 10 years.
6.) The USGS is set to release its revised findings on pollution controls in the Watershed in February 2012. Again, there is no need to rush this document through before everyone has had the opportunity to review the new findings.
7.) There are at least 15 groups and/or associations against this document in its current form. All for various reasons. There has yet to be one group stand up and support this document as is.
Pulaski County Farm Bureau
Arkansas State Land Commissioner
Arkansas Farm Bureau
Perry County Quorum Court
Arkansas Tea Party
Pulaski County Property Owners’ Coalition
Garland County Tea Party
Citizens to Protect the Maumelle Watershed
Americans for Prosperity - Arkansas
Little Rock Realtors Association
Occupy Little Rock
Arkansas Realtors Association
League of Women’s Voters
8.) If passed, this document will set a precedent for counties across the state that it is okay to trample on the rights of private property owners while hiding behind the blanket of water quality.
How do we zone the Watershed to protect the water quality without affecting the private property rights of landowners?
* We propose creating an alternative proposal that would amend the subdivision rules and regulations, create a new Land Use Plan, and create a new Zoning Ordinance. This plan would contain the three remaining elements the Central Arkansas Water and their consultant, Tetra Tech, claim to need in order to protect the water quality within the Watershed.
1.) List of Prohibited Uses
2.) Provide a minimum open space of 25% when BMPs are used along with the SET Tool.
3.) Provide a 25ft. Buffer Zone on each side of the stream.
* None of the interested parties object to providing CAW with these three tools to complete their Land Management Plan. The current proposed Zoning Ordinance goes too far and has no impact on water quality.
* If documents of this nature are proposed, not only will Farm Bureau provide our full support, but we would be an advocate to help pass the alternative proposal.
* There is no immediate need for restrictive zoning. If done through an alternative proposal, the Quorum Court will be able to address new problems as they arise instead of trying to pass an ordinance that will be irrelevant for development standards over the next 50 years and only be detrimental to current landowners.