Pessimistic outlook on Lake Maumelle rules | Arkansas Blog

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pessimistic outlook on Lake Maumelle rules

Posted By on Fri, Nov 11, 2011 at 6:19 AM

NO CHANGES: Buddy Villines like Lake Maumelle plan the way it is -- good for Deltic.
  • NO CHANGES: Buddy Villines like Lake Maumelle plan the way it is — good for Deltic.
Kathy Wells, president of the Coalition of Greater Little Rock Neighborhoods, reported to members yesterday after the Central Arkansas Water Commission meeting on proposed land use rules for the Lake Maumelle watershed. They've been, well, watered down considerably to be more to the liking of Deltic Timber, the big developer that controls most of the land in the watershed.

CAW hasn't taken a position yet, but Wells makes it clear that the power is in the hands of County Judge Buddy Villines and he's indicated he's not budging. This continues a historic pattern of Villines' obeisance to Deltic, which began years ago when he fought for their annexation into the city (without impact fees, naturally) but outside the Little Rock School District.

Wells sounds the alarm for citizens to be heard. Villines would argue that the plan being proposed — mild as it is — is still being fought strenuously by the Koch/black helicopter lobby and the county will be lucky to get any sort of regulations adopted by the Pulaski Quorum Court, which isn't broken out with brilliance.

Kathy's report:

To CGLRN from Pres. Kathy Wells:

At today’s meeting of the Central Ark. Water Commission, citizens, staff and Commission members discussed about the county’s proposed Maumelle Zoning Code, and how well or poorly that served the needs to keep our drinking water clean.

The Commission took questions from the public, and I was able to ask whether Graham Rich, Ex. Dir. Of the water utility, had been able to discuss his concerns about the Oct. 4 version of the proposed Zoning Code with Judge Floyd (Buddy) Villines of Pulaski Co., the long-time office-holder and former planner.

Yes, Rich said, he had spoken to Villines, and no, Villines was not willing to make any changes to this Oct. 4 version of the proposed code. When I asked why he took this position, Rich replied that Villines said he had met with various interested parties, and this addressed all concerns enough that Villines would hold to this version unchanged.

Villines holds the balance of power in this debate — utility officials will not gainsay him, because, they say, they must live with whatever the county enacts for a zoning ordinance. They will literally take what he gives them.

He overawes members of the Pulaski Co. Quorum Court, many of whom vote the way he directs them. They will have the final vote on this code.

The CAW Commission is to meet in special session the afternoon of Mon., Nov. 21st, and render an opinion of the Oct. 4 Zoning Code to the Pulaski Co. Planning Commission, due to consider a vote on this code the next day. Commission members have not entered the fray up to now; it is unlikely any will assert a strong voice at this late date, in lobbying county officials, or in making public statements to rally citizens to act.

The helping hand you seek to protect your drinking water is at the end of your own wrist. If you want to roll back the special status granted Deltic Timber Co. in this Oct. 4 version of the Zoning Code, write a letter to the editor of your newspaper; call your TV news desk. Note: Deltic is owner of 12,000 acres in the Pulaski part of the Watershed, which also has area in Perry Co. and Saline Co. Nobody else comes close to that size in ownership ready for development. By the way, Deltic reported Net Income on its last annual report of $12 million. They want all the profits they can get from development around Lake Maumelle; it is debatable whether they need it to stay in business in these hard times.

Email Van McClendon, co. planning director, at:

tell him you don’t want city development on the slopes of our drinking-water reservoir — roll back the changes of the Oct. 4 code, so we don’t allow 36,000 houses in this part of our watershed. Delete the provision that allows Village development (2 houses per acre) in 40 percent of the Low-Impact Residential District — where one house per acre had been the rule throughout. Demand one house on a three-acre lot. Demand wider buffers on stream banks — 75 ft. wide buffers. Delete permission to build apartment complexes in the Village District, around Little Italy. Put yourself on record as insisting the county uphold the strongest possible protections for our drinking water. This Zoning Code version flunks that test!

Water-drinkers will pay to clean up Deltic’s pollution if this code is approved without change. Latest estimate for a new treatment plant: $60 million.

There may be future discoveries that some devices or barriers failed to keep pollution out of the lake — but it would be unrealistic to expect county officials, or utility executives, to stand up to Deltic and demand they change their ways. They won’t tell Deltic those “Best Management Practices” don’t work, and to spend more money to do it over, and do it right.

Before everyone puts their faith in human engineering, let’s recall the record of Alotian Golf Course, the recreation of millionaires. That was to be built super-carefully, so no chemicals or pesticides ran off the course into that lovely lake nearby. Your drinking water, and mine. Great expense was invested in retention ponds, diversion channels, the works. That lasted a whole month before a big, green stain appeared in Lake Maumelle, leading right back to Alotian. Oops! Yes, deeper ponds were dug, to hold runoff, and other channels were added. We were all lucky; the chemicals that time were not deadly to people, or the lake quality.

Are you feeling lucky today? Want to gamble again? Keep silent.

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