If the current Lake Maumelle Watershed plan passes the property values will go down in the watershed and the rest of Pulaski Counties taxes and water bills will go up!
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE PROPOSED ZONING ORDINANCE
The Central Arkansas Water (CAW) Board and Pulaski County Planning Commission gave a less than enthusiastic review of the proposed Zoning Ordinance so it could be “advanced” to the Quorum Court where the real debate will take place. Every person and interest group that has reviewed this document opposes it—every one. The following explains some of the serious flaws in this proposal, and provides a few examples of how this proposed Zoning Ordinance would impact the everyday lives of landowners in the watershed (references to the proposed Zoning Ordinance are provided).
Since the proposed Zoning Ordinance has NOTHING to do with water quality, the Lake Maumelle watershed landowners are being unfairly singled out for regulation. Zoning in the Lake Maumelle watershed is unnecessary for water quality protection. Pulaski County has already enacted regulations that will protect the Lake Maumelle water supply from any potential adverse impacts associated with development. The Subdivision Ordinance, enacted by the Quorum Court on April 30, 2009, requires developers to design developments in the Lake Maumelle watershed such that the runoff meets specific targets for pollutants (phosphorus, total suspended solids and total organic carbon) that were established by CAW for water supply protection. The Site Evaluation Tool (SET), enacted by the Quorum Court on June 28, 2010, is a computer model developed by the county to test proposed development designs to insure that all proposed developments will achieve the required targets. Through these initiatives the County has already enacted development regulations that are more restrictive than anything adopted anywhere in the country. Both County Planning and Central Arkansas Water agree and have stated publicly that the Subdivision Ordinance and SET provide the regulations necessary to protect the water supply. According to CAW, development of the watershed will take hundreds of years to occur; which means that there is more than enough time to assess the effectiveness of the Subdivision Ordinance to control the effects of development, and make adjustments along the way. CAW reported it its Board meeting last month that if the entire Lake Maumelle watershed were converted to single family housing under the existing Subdivision Ordinance there will be no adverse impact to the water supply, and water quality may even be improved. In just a few months the USGS will publish a long awaited analysis of the impacts of development within the Lake Maumelle watershed, as a supplement to its prior report of NO impacts associated with development. Why is this ill advised proposal being rushed through?
There is NO support for the proposed Zoning Ordinance. Every person and interest group that spoke on the proposed Zoning Ordinance supported protecting the water quality of Lake Maumelle, but not one individual or interest group supported the
proposed Zoning Ordinance. The following interest groups have identified their opposition to the proposed Zoning Ordinance (for a variety of reasons):
* Over 200 landowners in the Lake Maumelle watershed attended the September 27,
2011 public hearing on the proposed Zoning Ordinance to express their opposition
* Arkansas State Land Commissioner
* Perry County Quorum Court
* Pulaski County Property Owners’ Coalition
* Citizens to Protect the Maumelle Watershed
* Little Rock Realtors Association
* Arkansas Realtors Association
* Pulaski County Farm Bureau
* Arkansas Farm Bureau
* Arkansas Tea Party
* Pulaski County Tea Party
* Garland County Tea Party
* Americans for Prosperity-Arkansas
* Occupy Little Rock
* League of Women’s Voters
* Arkansas Rice Growers Association
The Pulaski County Special School District has asked Pulaski County to evaluate the impacts of the proposed Zoning Code on school district funds, but no such impact evaluation has been conducted. During debate on the current draft, every member of the Planning Commission who spoke stated that the current draft was not a good document, that it placed unnecessary and unreasonable restrictions upon property owners, and recommended that changes be made. It appears that the only person who supports the proposed Zoning Ordinance in its current form is County Judge Buddy Villines, and his motivation for rushing this draft through has never been adequately explained to anyone.
The proposed Zoning Ordinance is OVER-REACHING. Some examples of requirements in the proposed Zoning Ordinance that are unnecessary are:
* Additional Open Space. Open space is one of the items addressed in the existing Subdivision Ordinance and SET. The SET already identifies how much open space/undisturbed space is required to be set aside and preserved as forest land when property is developed, based on the proposed development design. Under the proposed Zoning Ordinance, if a landowner builds anything, even a pole or fence (3.6.A.2; 10.2-definitions of “development” and “structure”), a minimum of 25% and up to 60% of the landowner’s own property must be set aside and permanently maintained as undisturbed open space, including replanting native trees if necessary—all at the expense of the landowner. (3.6.A.3; Table 3). CAW has only requested that 25% open space be part of any development design that uses maintenance intensive engineered systems to comply with the SET—as a margin of safety. There is universal support for CAW’s request, which can be implemented through a simple addition to the Subdivision Ordinance. The rest is totally unnecessary.
* Additional Stream Buffers. The existing Subdivision Ordinance already requires a developer to design a stream buffer as needed to protect the stream from pollution, based on the particular site characteristics. The proposed Zoning Ordinance would require 100 foot of undisturbed area around all watershed streams, a taking of private property that is not needed. 3.8.B.1. In contrast, CAW has only requested that a minimum 25 foot buffer be maintained on each side of a stream when land is developed. There is universal support for CAW’s request, which can be implemented reasonably through a simple addition to the existing Subdivision Ordinance. The rest is totally unnecessary.
* Taking of oil, gas and other valuable minerals. The proposed Zoning Ordinance would implement the Planning Department’s stated objective of prohibiting the extraction of valuable oil, gas and other minerals without compensation. Table 5.
* Building Permits, variances and conditional use permits. The existing Subdivision Ordinance already requires approval of the developer’s proposed site plan by the Planning Director, and the criteria for such approval include compliance with the SET as well as compliance with literally hundreds of pages of design criteria to protect water quality. The proposed Zoning Ordinance creates a new bureaucratic program that potentially turns every landowner into a developer, and regulates the most minute construction activities as developments. 4.7; 10.2. For example, a building permit is required for any new building or enclosure. A dog pen, or an air conditioner pad, or a driveway extension will require a building permit. Replacing a mobile home with a manufactured home, even one of the same size, requires a building permit. Selling home grown vegetables at a roadside stand requires a building permit. Preparing an application to obtain a building permit will require retaining a land surveyor, a registered professional engineer and an attorney, at a cost of $20,000 to $30,000. 4.7.B.2.d; 4.7.B.2.j; 3.7; 7.2.B.3; 3.6.F. After all that money is spent, if the permit is granted, appeals can be initiated by any one of CAW’s 400,000 customers, adding further to the costs and delays. 4.8. Avoiding these bureaucratic programs is one reason property owners chose to live in the county.
* Cost. When asked, the Planning Commission could not provide an estimate of the cost to Pulaski County to implement the proposed Zoning Ordinance. By comparison, the City of Little Rock spends over $2 million annually to implement its zoning program (for a similar geographical area). CAW’s short term funding of the County’s watershed subdivision program is grossly inadequate to fund this expansive, long term land use and zoning regulatory program. Furthermore, CAW’s statement that the proposed Zoning Ordinance should be changed because it goes far beyond CAW’s water quality needs places CAW’s funding commitment for this proposed Zoning Ordinance in question.
The proposed Zoning Ordinance is NOT a Water Quality Regulation. The proposed Zoning Ordinance goes beyond water quality by restricting property rights that are totally unrelated to water quality. Some examples of unreasonable, non-water quality related restrictions are:
* Building height. The proposed ordinance limits buildings to 36 feet in height. 3.3. The height of a building has nothing to do with water quality protection.
* Home occupations. The proposed ordinance defines what home occupations are acceptable (5.2), and even specifies how much area can be used for home occupation (5.2.B.4). The proposed Zoning Ordinance prohibits traffic other than what is “normal” for family occupancy, which makes it impossible to engage in a successful home occupation—customers would not be allowed to frequent the business. 5.2.B.2. Private property cannot be devoted to a business; the proprietor must live on site at all times. 5.2.A.2. No functions can be conducted outdoors, which eliminates many common home occupations, such as day care, riding lessons, and gardening. 5.2.A.1.
* Commercial property. No private property is zoned commercial. Table 5. Property located on Highway 10 and other major arterials that are obvious commercial sites are zoned “residential” thereby forcing a “residential” zoning on commercial property and ruining the property’s value. The existing Subdivision Ordinance already contains restrictions on commercial development to address water quality issues. These additional restrictions in the proposed Zoning Ordinance are totally unnecessary.
There are NO effective exemptions in the proposed Zoning Ordinance. The “exemptions” written into the proposed Zoning Ordinance are so restrictive they are rendered meaningless. For example:
* The “exemption” for new barns exceeding 36 feet in height is limited to existing agricultural uses. 3.3.B.2. This means that if a homeowner wants to start boarding horses, there is no exemption and no horse barn may be constructed.
* The exemptions for existing structures and family owned property are lost if anything changes or part of the property is sold off. 6.3; 1.4.C. For example, if the landowner wants to add additional horses to an existing 40’ barn, or move his horses to a new fenced in area, he must cut off the top 4 feet of the barn. 3.3.B.2;
6.3.A. If a landowner has an existing home within 50 feet of a stream, new construction anywhere on his property will require the landowner to tear down the part of his home that has been in the stream buffer for decades. 6.3.A. If a landowner with a family exempt home sells off an acre, or 100 acres, he must retrofit his house or reforest all the lots to comply with the SET.
* The enforcement provisions of the proposed Zoning Ordinance further render every exemption meaningless. Every new construction project, if it adds even one square foot of rooftop or paved surface, must comply with the SET—which will invoke the extensive (and expensive) engineering reviews and open space requirements for the entire site. 7.1.B.3. Housing that existed when the zoning ordinance was enacted may have to be torn down, and land that was cleared decades ago for pasture may have to be reforested (at the landowner’s expense). 3.6.A.2; Table 4, referencing Subdivision Ordinance 8.3; 8.7; 8.9. A $100 per day fine will be assessed, and all utilities can be cut off until SET compliance is achieved; e.g. until structures are removed or until the land is reforested. 7.4
There is only ONE land use issue that needs to be addressed. The land use issue that everyone seems to agree upon is the restriction of uses that are not compatible with a public water supply, such as landfills, hog farms, junk yards and major manufacturing operations. This could be accomplished through a simple prohibited use ordinance; i.e. an ordinance that only addresses that single issue. There is universal support for a prohibited use ordinance of this nature. The rest is totally unnecessary.
CAW’s three concerns can be easily addressed and there is universal support for these THREE items. CAW supports only three additional regulatory controls:
(1) Prohibited Uses;
(2) 25% open space when engineered systems are used for SET compliance;
(3) Minimum streamside buffers
There is universal support for these limited regulatory controls. The rest of the proposed zoning ordinance is totally unnecessary, unrelated to water quality, places unreasonable burdens on property owners, and takes land value without compensation. This is why everyone, with the exception of Judge Villines, opposes the proposed Zoning Ordinance. The opposition has nothing to do with water quality because everyone who opposes the proposed Zoning Ordinance has expressed support for reasonable and necessary water quality regulations. The opposition recognizes that the proposed Zoning Ordinance is a bad proposal that needs to be defeated.
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