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Polluting senator

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The salvage yard at Maryland and Thayer owned by Sen. Bob Johnson and his family is not just an eyesore, as we reported last week. Inspectors with the state Department of Environmental Quality visited the site last week, where Bradford Auto and Salvage operated under lease from the Johnsons for decades until this year, found areas of ground soaked with oil and gas. Runoff from the lot goes into a creek leading to the Arkansas River. ADEQ has notified Brett S. Johnson of Johnson Brothers Investments of Bigelow that discharge of oil and gas into the ground and streams is a violation of the federal Clean Water Act and the Arkansas Water and Air Pollution Control Act and has asked the company to submit a clean-up plan by Sept. 28.

Yes, that’s the same Sen. Johnson who wants to pass a law to make it hard to control development on the shore of Little Rock’s drinking water supply, Lake Maumelle.

KATV, Channel 7, picked up the story Monday night, adding this fact: The salvage yard, which is four city lots in size, has had more than just tires, cars, furniture and other junk dumped there. The body of a murdered woman was found there in January.

No place like this home

A jury in Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce’s court last week awarded $600,000 to Raymelle and Philip Greening in their breach of contract suit against builder Renaissance Homes Inc. and company president Brandon Tedder.

The Greenings sued over structural problems in their house at 67 Ranch Ridge Road — completed by Renaissance earlier this year and the subject of a recent Times article — that have kept it from getting a certificate of occupancy from the city. Little Rock code enforcement said the builders failed to correct a retaining wall that had begun to give way, a collapsed driveway and framing problems. Private engineers noted tilting piers and other structural problems.

Renaissance sued the Greenings first, to collect $61,059 the company said they owed them. The Greenings countersued. The jury awarded $400,000 for breach of contract by Renaissance and $200,000 for negligence by Tedder. The plaintiffs have raised concern that assets of the company have been transferred or spent to avoid paying a judgment.

Pierce is now considering a motion that could require Renaissance to knock the house down and return the property to its original condition or buy the deed from the Greenings.

Letting things slide

During the trial, city Building Codes Manager Chuck Givens testified that he knew that the house’s sloped foundation violated the city’s own code, adopted in 2001. Renaissance began construction in 2003. The code requires houses built on slopes greater than 10 degrees to have stepped foundations; the Ranch Ridge house was on a 24.7 degree angle. Givens said he had allowed builders a “transition period” to meet the new code requirement.

After Givens’ testimony, while the jury was out, Judge Pierce expressed dismay that the city wasn’t enforcing its own code. We wonder how many other builders have been allowed a “transition” to continue violating code.

Famous visitor

A spokesman for U.S. Sen. John McCain confirmed for our Arkansas Blog last week that people eating at Pizza Cafe on Labor Day were not seeing things. The presidential contender was indeed in town. It was a “personal visit,” said his spokesman, who wouldn’t elaborate.

McCain was in the company of several women who appeared to be staff, witnesses said. He was greeted warmly by people in the restaurant, our spies say. Seeing a friend? Lining up support on The Huckster’s turf?

No conflict

Little Rock mayoral candidate Jesse Mason will resign from the Port Authority board position he has held for the last seven years.

“I feel that, with my pursuit of mayor, this is something I should separate myself from,” Mason said. “I want to make sure there is no conflict of interest, since the Port Authority does a lot of business with the city.”

Mason didn’t mention it, but there’s a touch of competitive relevance to the four-way race for mayor. Candidate Mark Stodola is lawyer for the Little Rock Airport Commission.

More to come?

The appeal deadline has passed for a lawsuit challenging the permit to allow drainage of the Dark Hollow wetland in North Little Rock, but the legal action may not be over.

We hear there’s a possibility of a new suit. If it’s filed, it would cure a judge’s finding that the original lawsuit didn’t include a plaintiff with standing to challenge the permit to clear the way for Bruce Burrow’s development, The Shoppes at North Hills. Would adjacent property owners or people who’ve hunted, fished and canoed the wetlands qualify if the general public impact of damaged wetlands is not enough?

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