County judge race: Democracy at work | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

County judge race: Democracy at work

Posted By on Wed, Oct 8, 2008 at 10:29 AM

A strong challenger, Republican Phil Wyrick, and an issue that apparently has legs -- watershed protection, plus development controls to ensure it -- have had an effect on the race for county judge.

Kathy Wells, a government watchdog, reports to neighborhood groups that County Judge Buddy Villines, during taping of a League of Women Voters debate, has changed his tune on zoning. She's not ready to stand and cheer, but ....



The League of Women Voters of Pulaski Co. sponsored a Candidate Forum taped yesterday, and candidates for Pulaski Co. Judge appeared.

In an astonishing reversal of the position held for years, Co. Judge Floyd (Buddy) Villines announced the current pending ordinance was only to be the first of two steps to protect our drinking water by regulating new development around Lake Maumelle.

Subdivision regulations would come now, Villines said, and zoning would come later, once a land-use plan had been prepared and enacted. that process takes a year, Villines said.

All those who have urged Villines to provide for development only on large lots, with septic tanks, and to allow subdivisions with sewer lines only on a limited basis, and been soundly rebuffed, were astonished. Villines has steadfastly - until yesterday - replied that providing for 5 or 10-acre lots demands zoning, and he would not propose zoning in the county. The fact the
watershed around Lake Maumelle amounts to only 7 percent of the county's area made no difference.

Voters must decide for themselves how far to trust this campaign-trail reversal.

Note that protecting drinking water is such an important issue this election year that the question came from the League panel questioner, the Chamber of Commerce panel member and the Coalition of Greater LR Neighborhoods panel member.

Villines continued to exaggerate the difficulty of creating a land-use plan and zoning in the area of heavy forests with few residents. the complexity of uses, and many varied uses close together, as we see in our cities, will not be repeated here.

As advocates have noted, the Washington Co. ordinance might be a model. All that county's rural area is zoned residential, and any other proposed construction requires a Conditional Use Permit. Granted, the debate would be renewed over how many subdivisions with sewer sysytems would be safe to allow, considering the pollution risk to drinking water.

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