Watershed Zoning Code Pleases Water Authorities, Irks Some Landowners

Aug 28, 2014

Lake Maumelle
Credit Chris Hickey / KUAR News

This week the Pulaski County Quorum Court voted unanimously to adopt amendments to a zoning ordinance for the Lake Maumelle Watershed, but challenges still remain for those affected by the ordinance.

A task force of property owners, stakeholders and conservation groups had met over a course of several months to draft recommended changes for the ordinance. Among the key challenges they faced: balancing the need to ensure Lake Maumelle’s clean water supply for 400,000 Central Arkansans with the desires of property owners in the area.

John Tynan is a spokesman for Central Arkansas Water and was a member of that task force. He says CAW wanted to prohibit detrimental uses to land, protect streams that feed into the lake, place limitations on the density of new developments and better define how open space should be incorporated into those new developments.

“So, from a water-quality perspective, we achieved our goals,” Tynan says.

Butch Eggers, a farmer and owner of Wye Mountain Flowers and Berries in Roland was a member of that task force as well but says the ordinance is too strict. It will prevent new farmers from buying watershed property in the future, he says.

“The thing is you're going to see people not want to go through the effort or they won't be able to do what they want to do what they want to do agricultual-wise, so they're not going to buy [the land] as a farm.”

Instead, Eggers predicts that developers with the means to meet the watershed’s zoning rules will build housing tracts in place of older farms in the watershed. Debbie Moreland of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts is another former member of the task force. She suggests local governments start up a Watershed agricultural council which would supply incentives to farmers who want to improve their lands.

“These [programs] are not unique. These are things that are being done all around the country. They're being done in Oregon; they're being done in the Catskills,” Moreland says.

She says such programs could balance the rural landowners’ need for resources with the region’s need for Lake Maumelle’s clean drinking water.