Fighting for clean water | Arkansas Blog

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fighting for clean water

Posted By on Mon, Mar 9, 2009 at 2:31 PM

Lake Maumelle protectionists soldier on. Today, they got an important legal opinion from the attorney general that says a county need not get into zoning to put a minimum lot-size on developments. County Judge Buddy Villines has thrown up this imagined obstacle as part of his smokescreen to resist land use protection of the watershed. 

NEWS RELEASE FROM CITIZENS PROTECTING MAUMELLE WATERSHED

Little Rock, Arkansas – Arkansans hoping to protect the quality of water in Lake Maumelle have received a “tremendous legal boost” from an opinion from Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office that counties can indeed restrict the size of development lots without zoning. 

 
Lake Maumelle provides high quality drinking water for nearly 400,000 people in central Arkansas.   Regulations are now under consideration to protect both the water quality of the lake and property rights of those who own the land supporting the lake.  After years of study, discussion and debate have narrowed to this issue – legal authority of the county to conserve open space as development occurs.


During a recent rally, Citizens Protecting Maumelle Watershed (CPMW) called upon Pulaski County government to amend the proposed regulations to require minimum lot sizes of five (5) acres throughout the Pulaski County portion of the watershed.
Judge Buddy Villines was quoted in a March 6th Arkansas Democrat Gazette article: “That takes us into zoning ordinances, and under state law you have to have a land-use plan before you can implement [zoning]”. 


In Arkansas Attorney General Opinion number 2009-018 dated March 5, 2009, it states, “….the statutes discussed above generally address the `county’s authority to regulate subdivision development. This distinction strongly supports the conclusion that lot-size restrictions, which clearly appear to be contemplated in the statues recited above, need not be imposed exclusively through zoning restrictions.”


“This opinion should give Pulaski County Quorum Court JPs the legal confidence they need to restrict the lot sizes in the Lake Maumelle watershed. This opinion means Pulaski County Government can require minimum lot sizes through the County’s subdivision rules and regulations avoiding a delay associated with zoning which can take up to 18 months or more” said Kate Althoff, spokesman for Citizens Protecting Maumelle Watershed.


The Attorney General opinion states, “I believe current legislation would authorize Pulaski County to impose reasonable lot-size restrictions designed to address environmental concerns.” Senator David Johnson in response stated “We want all parties to be assured of local county government’s authority to use all tools necessary to help Lake Maumelle.   This opinion offers that assurance.”


“The League is heartened by this news and we would hope Judge Villines is, too,” said Ruth Bell of the League of Women Voters of Pulaski County. 


Opinion Number 2009-018 may be found at http://ag.arkansas.gov/opinions/docs/2009-018.pdf


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