Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Letters supporting grants to build trails in Arkansas needed NOW!

From: Terry Eastin
Date: July 23, 2008 7:43:08 PM CDT

Subject: Arkansas Trail Fund - last request for letters

Everyone -

Thank you so much for your support of the trail legislation initiative! We are 87 letters strong as of today, July 23rd. A significant number of the mayors of Arkansas' largest cities and many smaller towns have sent well-crafted letters indicating their support for economic, health, and conservation reasons. Many organizations, including those one might not expect (economic and health arenas), have also given this initiative their support. Even more of you individually took the time to share your thoughts and send your letters.

This is the last post I will send requesting letters. The deadline was extended to August 1st last week, but, if letters come in shortly after the deadline, they will be accepted until the packet is finalized. I am expecting the count to extend 100 letters.

Once the project is completed, I send a report to all who helped.

Thank you very much, and please forward this last message. Again, if you have questions, please feel free to contact me at, or by phone at 479-236-0938.

Terry Eastin
Co-Chair, 2008 National Trails Symposium


Please distribute the letter below and both attachments to every organization news outlet, email network, agency, mayor, city council, county judge, and trail enthusiast you know. If trail enthusiasts want to see an Arkansas Trails Fund established in the 2009 legislative season, NOW is the time to act! The response date has been extended to August 1, so, please help move this project forward with your letters to me either by email or regular mail. If you have questions, please feel free to contact. We are over half way to our goal of 100+ letters.

Attached is a letter from me explaining the project, a report prepared for the Legislative Committee on Agriculture, Economics, and Forestry, as well as, an Arkansas trail funding summary that illustrates the strong demand for our current minimal trail grant resources.

Even if you have already sent a letter yourself, please forward this request to other trail friends and enthusiasts. Your voices will be heard.

My address is

858 N. Jackson Drive
Fayetteville, AR 72701

Best Regards,
Terry Eastin

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Discovery Farms' program highlighted on its Web site and in Northwest Arkansas Times story

Please click link to read about
Discovery Farms environmental program in Wisconsin

Please click on link to read
Northwest Arkansas Times story on Discovery Farms environmental program in Wisconsin

Dairy farmer discusses program that monitors environmental data
BY TRISH HOLLENBECK Northwest Arkansas Times
Posted on Tuesday, July 22, 2008
SPRINGDALE — Joe Bragger says he believes farmers and nonfarmers can work together to solve environmental and economic problems.

There are fringe groups out there that will never be happy with anything he does, Bragger, a dairy farmer who also raises chickens and beef cattle on his family’s farm in west-central Wisconsin, said Monday.

But then there are the rest of the people who farmers can work with to get things done, he said in an interview after giving a speech about Wisconsin’s Discovery Farms Program during Arkansas Farm Bureau’s 60 th annual Officers & Leaders Conference at the Holiday Inn in Springdale.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Government protection of wetland pathetic

EPA Enforcement Is Faulted
Agency Official Cites Narrow Reading of Clean Water Act
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 8, 2008; A06
An official administration guidance document on wetland policy is undermining enforcement of the Clean Water Act, said a March 4 memo written by the Environmental Protection Agency's chief enforcement officer.
The memo by Granta Y. Nakayama, EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, was obtained by the advocacy group Greenpeace and released yesterday by two House Democratic committee chairmen. It highlights the confusion that has afflicted federal wetland protections since a 2006 Supreme Court decision.
That 5 to 4 decision, known as Rapanos v. United States, held that the Army Corps of Engineers had exceeded its authority when it denied two Michigan developers permits to build on wetland, but the court split on where the Corps should have drawn the line on what areas deserve protection.
A plurality made of up Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. proposed an across-the-board reduction in the Corps' regulatory role, but Justice Anthony M. Kennedy -- who cast the deciding vote -- called for a case-by-case approach in deciding how the government should proceed. That left the ruling open to interpretation.
In his memo to Benjamin Grumbles, EPA's assistant administrator for water, Nakayama wrote that the document the agency issued in June 2007 to guide regulators' decisions under the Rapanos decision is having "a significant impact on enforcement." Nakayama and his staff concluded that between July 2006 and December 2007, EPA's regional offices had decided not to pursue potential Clean Water Act violations in 304 cases "because of jurisdictional uncertainty."
Much of the controversy centers on what sort of waterway and accompanying wetland should qualify for protection. The administration's guidance instructs federal officials to focus on the "relevant reach" of a tributary, which translates into a single segment of a stream. In the memo, Nakayama argued that this definition "isolates the small tributary" and "ignores longstanding scientific ecosystem and watershed protection principles critical to meeting the goals" of the Clean Water Act.
Chairmen Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee and James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.) of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee sent a letter yesterday to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson saying they have "grave concerns" about the way the agency is implementing the Clean Water Act.
The two noted that Nakayama concluded that in all, the Supreme Court decision and the subsequent guidance document "negatively affected approximately 500 enforcement cases" in nine months. They also questioned why EPA's Grumbles did not raise the issue when he testified before Oberstar's panel less than three months ago.
"This sudden reduction in enforcement activity will undermine the implementation of the Clean Water Act and adversely affect EPA's responsibility to protect the nation's waters," the congressmen wrote. "Yet instead of sounding the alarm about EPA's enforcement problems, the agency's public statements have minimized the impact of the Rapanos decision."
In response to a question about the congressional inquiry, EPA spokesman Jonathan Shradar said in an e-mail: "We will be reviewing the new request and will work with the chairmen to provide information on our enforcement program."
Eric Schaeffer, who used to head EPA's civil enforcement division and now heads the Environmental Integrity Project, an advocacy group, called Nakayama's memo "very significant. It lays out very clearly why you can't enforce one of the most important parts of the Clean Water Act."
EPA officials are not the only ones growing frustrated with the confusing legal interpretations of the Rapanos decision. Robert B. Propst, a senior judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division, wrote in a Nov. 7, 2007, decision that he was reassigning a wetland case "to another judge for trial. At least one of the reasons is that I am so perplexed by the way the law applicable to this case has developed that it would be inappropriate for me to try it again."
© 2008 The Washington Post Company
Stormwater Management
Total Stormwater Management Service Design, Repair & Maintenance

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Condo developers on Beaver Lake seeking extension of project approval from Benton County

To All ABLE Members,

I am sending this email to galvanize our ABLE membership to take action! The Grandview Heights condo developers are back, this time to request a two-year extension from the Benton County Planning Board. This is a chance to kill this project once and for all!

The Planning board meeting will be at 5:30 on Wednesday, July 16. It will be held in the Quorum Court room (3rd floor), in the Benton County Administration building. This building is just east of the courthouse located on the Bentonville Square. The room isn’t real large, so please get there between 4:30 and 5 if possible. If you are comfortable doing so, please plan on speaking during the public comment period. There is a 3-minute limit per person and of course you don’t have to use the full time. I will provide some talking points below. There are a lot of issues to talk about, so just pick a few points that you are comfortable talking about.

In addition to having people speak during the time allotted for public comment, it would be a good idea to over pack the room. This would send a message to the planning board that there are still many concerned citizens who do not want this project’s developers to do any more damage than they already have. So even if you don't speak, please be there and come early - the room will probably over fill. By the way - if we fill the room by 4:30 or 5 - there will not be room for the condo team to come in and sit down other than their speaker. I don't anticipate very many red shirts coming out to support the condos.

Some background for any of you who are wondering what the meeting is all about:

Grandview Heights was approved in 2005 with a list of 13 required items and a 2 year window in which to pull a building permit. The approval was for a 15-story condo building, and two additional buildings up to 25 stories each. The 2 years expire on July 21st. Now they are asking for a 2-year extension.

The main overriding issue is that the condo project is in such a mess financially; it is unlikely they can get a completion bond – one of the 13 items required by the County. If they can't get the completion bond (which requires a strong financial position) then they can't get a building permit and therefore cannot build the project.

What is the financial mess? They are in foreclosure on the property - 2 entities are fighting over who is first in line to foreclose. A foreclosure is a lawsuit - so both the seller of the property and a group that lent them money are suing the developer. There are also liens against the property for unpaid work done at the site. Neither the dirt work contractor nor the engineering firm has been paid and the team that designed the sewage treatment system also has not been paid. And, it is astonishing to me that the property taxes are delinquent. I'm not surprised the taxes weren't paid - I'm astonished that the developer has the nerve to go in and ask the same County for an extension! This alone should make them ineligible to ask for more time.

There are many other reasons not to give an extension. In 2 1/2 years, they have not completed any of the 13 requirements the County gave this project. The Arkansas Dept. of Environmental Quality denied their request for a sewage treatment facility. and – they never completed a fire study and therefore do not have the required agreement with the fire department.

Ultimately, the developers could not perform, scarred the land, and ripped off some local companies as well as the county taxpayers! Why would this planning board even consider an extension for this project?

The County Planning Regulations (Blue Book) state in Chapter I Section 5 (page 6):

"The planning board may modify, vary, or waive the requirements of this ordinance by an affirmative vote of two-thirds (2/3) vote of the total membership of the Benton County Planning Board. Note: a two-thirds vote of the attending quorum is not sufficient. The criteria to grant such modification, variances, or waiver shall be, without exception, and singularly because strict compliance with any provision of this ordinance would cause exceptional or undue hardship to the land developer. Additionally, extra expense, economic hardship, or additional outlay of capital funds or money shall never constitute grounds for exceptional or undue hardship".

So, someone needs to state that any vote for an extension would require 5 yes votes, and that there is no reason that the developers can give for an extension other than economic hardship, and that is specifically excluded in the Planning regulations as stated above.

If you cannot attend the meeting on the 16th, or do not wish to speak, please email your arguments to the Planning Director and Planning Board members below.

Planning Director Ashley Pope –
Bill Kneebone
Caleb Henry
Heath Ward
Mark Gray
Scott Borman
Tim Sorey
Adele Lucus unknown

Please participate. Only through all of our efforts will we succeed!

I expect to hear a really slick sales pitch on the 16th from the developer’s attorney. It will probably be something like… “we have investors lined up, but they won’t invest unless you give us the additional time”. The media will all be there. Hope to see you on the 16th at 4:30 (meeting starts at 5:30)!

Doug Timmons
President, ABLE

Friday, July 4, 2008

Downtown General zone? Why not Neighborhood Conservation?

Please click on image of native-stone house and giant catalpa trees uphill from Spout Spring Branch in south Fayetteville, Arkansas. This lot and adjacent blocks in the area would be zoned Downtown General rather than Neighborhood Conservation if the Walker Park Neighborhood Master Plan is not revised.

When I advocated closer study of geography and existing homes in the Walker Park neighborhood before the rezoning plan is approved, I was thinking of many places.
Here is the intersection at the far northeast corner of the Walker Park master plan and it is in blue on the concept plan as "downtown general." I was wrong about that being Mary Carr's house, which is a block north on Huntsville.
Riparian zone of Spout Spring Branch starts part way down this lot this corner lot or it certainly starts in the adjoining lot. Any disruption of soil or anything else on this property would be within what should be the no-build zone to protect the Beaver Lake Watershed and would imperial the quality of the stream.

GIANT catalpa trees are pretty common in this part of town but are being taken down regularly. Here here are examples worth saving.

Native stone houses are disappearing rapidly in this part of town and here is an example worth saving. I know, it isn't of as high quality as the one removed from the land of the late Ray Adams on S. School Ave. to make way for Advance Auto, but it is a wonderful dwelling and of historic value.

Mill Ave., of course, is the extension of E. South Street leading northeastward from the narrow block that was discussed by Tony Wappel in the council meeting this past Tuesday.

Enjoy the holiday!