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2) They believe that the easement deal gives allowances to Vogelpohl that are not in the land-use ordinance, including gravel mining, animal waste being spread on the land, and burying dead and diseased animals. (See a summary of what they believe would be additional allowances under the deal at arktimes.com/landownerscomp.)
3) They believe the easement deal would supersede the land-use ordinance, if it passed, because of a clause stating that "[t]his Code does not interfere with or abrogate or annul any easements, covenants or other agreements between parties." They note that in December, the next sentence was cut: "However, if this chapter imposes a greater restriction, this chapter controls." The deletion of this caveat seems to suggest an attempt to undercut the ordinance in relation to other agreements.
In sum, they believe that Vogelpohl is getting a major payout for a deal that is less restrictive and offers less environmental protection than the land-use ordinance.
CAW officials vehemently deny that Vogelpohl is getting a special deal. They say that Vogelpohl's land is a top priority for watershed protection because of its location along the Maumelle River and because it is contiguous with other land acquired by CAW. They argue that the easement, like the ordinance, is a key step in protecting water quality in Lake Maumelle, a source of drinking water for more than 400,000 Central Arkansans.
Watershed Protection Manager John Tynan told the board that the conservation easement was a vital environmental protection tool and noted that almost 9 million acres across the country are protected under conservation easements as of 2010. He said it was a more cost-effective tool for long-term protection than direct acquisition. He also said CAW has communicated with other landowners who are interested in conservation easements but want to wait to see how the deal with Vogelpohl plays out. CAW plans to look into conservation easement deals with landowners throughout the watershed in the future.
At the board meeting, Tynan said the easement deal was "significantly more restrictive" than the land-use ordinance. For example, the easement would create a larger buffer on both sides of the river and would dramatically reduce density. The easement deal would not allow any other homes to be built, whereas the ordinance allows one to two per acre.
CAW believes that critics are misrepresenting and exaggerating the differences in allowances between the conservation easement and the land-use ordinance. (See a PDF of CAW's summary of restrictions and allowances in the two plans at arktimes.com/CAWcomp). In a phone interview after the meeting, Tynan said CAW would never pursue any agreement that would relax restrictions in the land-use ordinance. "We support the zoning code as written," he said. "We are not interested and would never work on any sort of document or agreement that would work against the purpose and intent of the zoning code."
Tynan said no restriction in the ordinance, enforced by the county, would be superseded by the easement with CAW. He said that the county attorney had advised CAW "clearly and unequivocally ... that the zoning code will be enforced equally to all property owners within the watershed. The fact that the conservation easement may exist cannot and will not relax any requirements." He said that the clause pointed to by critics only meant that the ordinance wouldn't override restrictions in other agreements such as an easement. As for the curious deletion of the "greater restriction" sentence, he told the Times that that revision did not come from CAW. Both County Attorney Karla Burnett and Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines told the Times that they believed the sentence was removed during the revision process because it was redundant. "The ordinance is law," Burnett said. "Once it's adopted by the Quorum Court, it's codified as county law. The easement is just an agreement between two parties...to the extent that the ordinance is more restrictive than the easement, the ordinance controls."
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