by Max Brantley
Development in the Lake Maumelle watershed protection debate:
Citizens Protecting Maumelle Watershed, a voluntary group of environmentally conscious and dedicated citizens, has said it supports a land use plan heading to a vote at the Quorum Court Tuesday night. (UPDATE: County Judge Buddy Villines says a final vote isn't expected, just a first reading.) It continues to urge improvements to a second ordinance, a more contentious zoning code, but says it does support the concept of amendments added last week by Quorum Court committees at the urging of the Coalition of Greater Little Rock Neighborhoods.
The zoning code is less protective of the lake than CPMW would like, but the group said it could be a good "starting point" for lake protection with several additional improvements. It was amended last week in committee to be more palatable to existing watershed property owners, but also to reduce the density of potential residential development in huge area covering parts of two counties. The majority of the land is owned by Deltic Timber, a major developer, which bought it for a pittance as scrub timber and pays tiny taxes on it while holding it as an agricultural use. CPMS would further increase open space, reduce density and increase stream buffers.
Most of what you need to know about this is the roster of players. On one side is the voluminous work of CPMW and other neighborhood interests, with no vested interest but clean water. On the other side are Deltic, famous for getting local taxpayers to subsidize their developments and change law to suit their needs, and Americans for Prosperity, the anti-tax, anti-environmental-regulation lobby group financed by billionaire Koch family that is using Little Rock as a poster child and demonstration lab for its damaging no-creed-but-greed political agenda. AFP is identified as the sponsor in recent wildly dishonest telephone calls (zoning will require people to remodel their homes) to stir up opposition to the plan. Some of these calls were made from a House Republican telephone number, still another indicator of how much you can trust AFP when it claims to be non-partisan and not working in coordination with Republicans.
The full statement from CPMW follows:
CITIZENS PROTECTING MAUMELLE WATERSHED
STATEMENT OF POSITION ON LAKE MAUMELLE LAND USE PLAN & LAKE MAUMELLE WATERSHED ZONING CODE
Citizens Protecting Maumelle Watershed (CPMW) supports a Lake Maumelle Land Use Plan and an amended Lake Maumelle Watershed Zoning Code.
The Zoning Code is a complex document that has been substantively amended a number of times, resulting in a document that over time has become much less protective of Lake Maumelle and our future drinking water quality. Everyone agrees this extraordinary resource that serves as the primary drinking water supply for 400,000 central Arkansans must be adequately protected as a public drinking water supply for many decades into the future.
CPMW believes the Zoning Code can be made into a good starting point in our long-term protection of Lake Maumelle if changes are made. These changes are as follows:
1) Roll back the overly ambitious density levels (e.g., lots as small as 1/2-acre or 'city-sized' lots) in the Low Impact District. Test the various protective mechanisms in the Site Evaluation Tool, Stormwater Management and Drainage Manual, Erosion and Sediment Control Field Guide, Land Use Plan, and Zoning Code, and determine whether they are causing unacceptable degradation of our drinking water. Begin with 3-acre minimum lot sizes in the Low Impact District until such time as the above controls have been thoroughly tested and proven to work beyond a doubt. The 3-acre minimum lot sizes would allow ~7,000 new houses in the Low Impact District at build out if this turns out to be the maximum density that is sufficiently protective of water quality.
2) Increase the minimum undisturbed open space requirement from 25% to 30% to be required of all new development.
3) Ensure the definition of the term undisturbed open space/undisturbed area in Chapter 8 of the Subdivision Regulations ("Undisturbed Area"), the Land Use Plan ("Undisturbed Open Space"), and the Zoning Code ("Undisturbed Open Space") are completely consistent and actually mean what they say. Currently, "undisturbed open space" can be land that has just been clear cut, had a revegetation plan filed, and can immediately qualify as undisturbed open space, when that flies in the face of everyone's understanding of that term. More importantly, true undisturbed open space and the preservation of established forest is a critical element to good water quality.
4) Increase stream buffers to 75-feet on both sides of all streams.
5) Change the name of the "Village District" to the "Little Italy District".
We also urge adoption of a Land Use Plan that will demonstrate Pulaski County's seriousness in protecting Lake Maumelle water quality to the best of its abilities, and with continuous support from Central Arkansas Water.
We understand there are differences between the Land Use Plan and the Zoning Code that will have to be reconciled. We ask that those reconciliations be weighted in favor of greater protections for our drinking water reservoir.
CPMW also endorses the concepts of the amendment to the Zoning Code proposed by the Coalition of Greater Little Rock Neighborhoods that was approved by the Quorum Court Administration Committee on Tuesday December 13 for consideration by the full Quorum Court.
We have begun a process that will last as long as Lake Maumelle continues to serve as a high quality public drinking water supply. That may well be 100 years or longer. As a community, we simply must get this right. We will not get a second chance.
Spokesperson, Citizens Protecting Maumelle Watershed