Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Proposed changes weaken Lake Maumelle watershed rules

Posted By on Tue, Dec 11, 2012 at 5:13 PM

Judge Buddy Villines
  • Judge Buddy Villines

Pulaski County released the latest amendments to the Lake Maumelle watershed land-use ordinance yesterday. The changes loosen the zoning regulations on land owners and developers.

The Pulaski County Quorum Court tabled the original ordinance last December awaiting a report — finally released last week — from the United States Geological Service, even though that report was irrelevant to the matter at hand (leading to speculation that the Quorum Court was trying to buy time to figure out how to handle what had become a hot-button issue or perhaps giving lobbyists time to buy opposition to clean-water regulations).

The county first released a revised draft of the ordinance in May and followed up with the second revision released yesterday. Compared to the original ordinance from last December, the latest version reduces required open-space regulations for developers and eliminates the height restriction for single-family homes, among other changes.

The changes to the ordinance, which will be taken up at the Quorum Court’s Dec. 18 meeting, were likely influenced by meetings Pulaski Country Judge Buddy Villines has had with property owners and other stakeholders over the course of the last year.

No comment so far from Deltic Timber, the El Dorado-based corporation which owns more than 10,000 acres of land in the watershed and shares a lobbyist with Koch Industries (the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity was also involved in fighting the ordinance a year ago).

As for advocates of watershed protection, there is likely to be a divide between those who believe the ordinance is no longer strong enough and those willing to support it as the best available option.

I talked with Kate Althoff of Citizens Protecting Lake Maumelle Watershed, who stressed that she was speaking only as a private citizen. She said that she had not had time to thoroughly look at the latest draft but raised some general points:

I feel that it’s very important to compromise, very important to get all the information, discuss it, and try to find the middle ground. But we’ve gone way too far. This is definitely a development-weighted piece of legislation.

The reason water quality in Lake Maumelle is so pristine is because 90 percent of that watershed is either in timberland or native grass. And none of this protects one square foot of any of that. Not one square foot of the existing forest or prairie grass is protected. Why in the world can we not step up and find the political will to take care of the very thing that we know is working?

I think that the community, the 400,000 ratepayers, are being let down by Central Arkansas Water because they have not informed the legislative body of the county what is at issue. They have not pushed back.

You can read the full ordinance, marked with the latest revisions, here.

Below the jump, see a list of substantive changes made to zoning regulations since the Quorum Court tabled the original ordinance back in December 2011.

Substantive Changes Made To The Proposed Zoning Regulations Since The December, 2011 Quorum Court Version (*Indicates Changes Made Since the May 14, 2012 Version)

1.4 C.,D.: Struck from the ordinance to alleviate small property owner fears of hindrance on future land transfers.

2.4 D.1 (Which includes Table 4): The “Sliding Scale” was eliminated as impractical and was replaced by Section 2.6 (Which includes a new Table 4) and is a Conservation Design Approach that mirrors the Watershed Management Plan.

2.5 D.: Replaced Table with text.

2.6: Added Section, see comment on 2.4 D.1.

2.7: The use matrix was changed to clarify Districts and properly align all uses. Agricultural uses were redefined as Feedlot.

*2.7, Table 4: Added Small Power Plant

3.3 B.1: Exempted Single Family and Agricultural uses (and their Accessory Structures and Buildings) from the 36’ maximum height restriction.

3.3 B.2: Exempted Single Family and Agricultural Accessory Structures and Buildings from the 36’ maximum height restriction.

3.6 A.2: If BMP’s are used and impervious surface constructed, a minimum of 25% of the land area must be designated as Open Space. This was inserted to mitigate the possibility of higher density development (greater than 1 unit per acre).

*3.6 A.3: Allows Exemption Square Footage for all property owners. Allows Exemption Square Footage allocations for subdivisions and Family Exclusions.

3.6 C.: Listed the land cover categories that can be used as Open Space.

3.6 E. (Table 5): Removed the distinction between Usable and Undisturbed Open Space. Clarified the permitted activities allowed in Open Space.

3.8 B. 1.,2.3.: Clarifies the applicability of Stream Buffers by describing development actions that trigger them. Section was written to help alleviate land owner concerns.

3.8 D. 1.,2.,3: Specifies permitted activities in a Stream Buffer. Section was written to help alleviate land owner concerns.

4.7: Establishes a Registration Permit that compliments the Building Permit process and substantially increases the by-right impervious areas allowed by property owners (up to 10,000 square feet); eases the notification process requirement on property owners; and finally, lessens the burden on property owners to meet administrative requirements.

*4.7 A.1.a. : Clarified Registration and Building Permit requirements with regard to Exemption Square Footage.

*4.8 and 4.9 were swapped to reflect logical sequencing.

*5.2: Removed restrictions on Home Occupations to allow them in all cases if the total square footage attributed to the Home Occupation is less than the area used for residential purposes, meets the SET and has adequate wastewater disposal. In addition, provisions were added to allow Home Occupations in Accessory and allowed for tenant Home Occupations. Also, created a table to allow outdoor storage for Home Occupations.

6.5 B. 1.: Allows a property owner to replace a nonconforming building or structure.

10. 2.: Definitions, changed, deleted or added are listed below.

Changed Definitions: Developer, *Exemption Square Footage (increased from 10,000 to 15,000 square feet and added a Driveway) Forest, Grassland, Impervious Area, Lawn/Managed Pervious Surface, Local Serving Commercial and Retail, Open Space, *Power Plant, *Roadside Stand and Tract.

Deleted Definitions: Accessory Building, Accessory Dwelling Unit, Accessory Structure, Active Recreation, Confined Animal Operation, Open Space Common, Open Space Required, Open Space Undisturbed, Open Usable, and Use Permit.

Added Definitions: Animal Unit, Average Lot Slope, Bare Earth (Residential), Cluster, Conservation Design Approach, Driveway, Exemption Square Footage, Gravel, High Slope, Low Slope, Pavement (Residential), Pavement (Commercial), Pavement (Roads), Registration Form, Rooftops, and Tract Owner.

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