by Max Brantley
Big news on the land use plan for the Lake Maumelle watershed.
The plan was considered by separate Pulaski Quorum Court committees last night. One committee deadlocked 4-4. The Administration Commmittee approved the plan, but added amendments to the liking of the Coalition of Greater Little Rock Neighborhoods — NOT AS I WROTE INCORRECTLY ORIGINALLY Citizens Protecting Maumellle Watershed — 6-1. That vote is only two votes shy of the number needed for approval by the 15-member county government body, which will take the plan up next week. Some other members are sponsors of the amendments to the ordinances. If they hold firm, the votes would be there for passage.
The proposal stiffens the ordinance on development in the watershed by reducing the number of allowable residences, but also offers some improvements to mollify existing small landowners in the watershed — notably a grandfather clause for all current uses. The small landowners have been organized into a small, but effective lobby by the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity and a lobbyist who happens to work for both major landowner Deltic Timber and Koch Industries but who says his only paying customers in this fight are the little landowners of Bigelow and environs. Deltic and Koch prefer no regulations and a free hand in development.
Packed house last night, lots of objections from all sides. JP Shane Stacks notes questions about the Administration Committee's ability to hear the ordinances over the County Services Committee, which deadlocked. He reports lengthy opposition from many speakers and shouts from Occupy Little Rock people to the committee, "Who do you represent?"
Here's the report from Kathy Wells of the Coalition of Greater Little Rock Neighborhoods on what happened (and please note that the Citizens Protecting Maumelle Watershed says it DOES NOT at this point support the proposal as amended; it has said it wants far stricter development rules though it has not taken a formal position for or against anything now before the court):
By Kathy Wells
Tonight JP Donna Massey successfully proposed attaching the Coalition amendments to the proposed Maumelle Watershed Zoning Code in committee, and now that amended Code is slated for a vote by the full Quorum Court next Tuesday, Dec. 20.
Voting with Massey were JPs Dawne Vandiver, Teresa Coney, Judy Green, Bob Johnson, and Paul Elliott of the Administration Committee of the Quorum Court. The Coalition thanks each of these civic-minded Justices of the Peace, who sought to re-balance inequities in the Code as proposed by county planning staff. JP Shane Stacks voted against the amendment.
Also attached was another amendment, by Johnson, co-sponsored by Massey, Vandiver, Green, and Coney, as well as JPs Wilandra Dean, Curtis Keith, Jeff Rollins, Julie Blackwood, and Robert Green. This addressed several items criticized by current residents of the Watershed, dealing with home occupations, allowing farm home occupations, and clarifying that building height restrictions did not apply to accessory structures.
Massey made a motion to attach these Coalition revisions:
* to respect property rights of Watershed residents by grandfathering all into the Code at the current usage, excluding them from engineering rules applied to new subdivisions;
* to control excessive development by capping the houses allowed at this time at 7,000; and
* to allow more houses only when controls perform as estimated, and review development every 30 months and test whether developers are keeping pollution out of the lake, as calculated.
Our appeals to county officials are working! Let’s re-double our efforts and add signatures to the Coalition petition online.
Go to the website and sign up. Comments invited.