Sunday, July 27, 2008

Benton County Quorum Court votes against watershed protection

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

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Benton County JPs fail to support protection of Beaver Lake watershed

Benton County Quorum Court Rejects Judge's Pick For Planning Board
By Scarlet Sims
The Morning News
BENTONVILLE - The Benton County Quorum Court rejected a resolution Thursday to confirm a long-time environmental advocate to the planning board. Mark Curtis of Rogers could not be fair when looking at development around Beaver Lake, justices of the peace said.
"As a justice of the peace, I'm obligated to vote for someone more conservative," said Justice of the Peace Bobby Hubbard, R-northwestern Benton County.
Curtis would have replaced board member Adele Lucas who announced earlier this month she would not accept a reappointment to the board. Benton County Judge Gary Black and Planning Director Ashley Pope chose Curtis from around 19 applications submitted last year after another board member resigned.
Pope said Black made the decision to recommend Curtis, but County Attorney Robin Green said the Quorum Court must confirm the recommendation before a board member can be appointed. Black could recommend Curtis again, said Justice of the Peace Tim Summers, R-Bentonville.
Pope recommended the Quorum Court approve Curtis because he has a background in planning, experience in public and private finance and attends almost every planning board meeting.
"He really seems to have a heart for planning," Pope said. Curtis said he wanted to serve on the board to promote land-use planning.
"Benton County will require some regulation to allow for orderly growth and protection of its natural resources," Curtis wrote in his application last year.
He said Thursday he supports development that fits into the environment.
"There are plenty of places (around the lake) that can be developed that won't hurt the environment," Curtis said.
Property rights advocates objected to Curtis' appointment. They pointed out Curtis strongly supported a watershed ordinance to create a buffer around the lake two years ago. That ordinance would have lowered property values and taken away landowners' ability to use their property, said Don Day, the president of Northwest Arkansas Property Rights Association. The association supports property rights, according to the group's Web site.
Curtis, who is the Association of Beaver Lake Environment treasurer, opposed developing condominiums on the lake. The nonprofit group seeks to maintain the quality of Beaver Lake, according to the group's brochure. Curtis wrote in his application that he may have a conflict in dealing with Grandview Heights condominiums in a vote.
Based on Curtis' past, Hubbard said he thought Curtis would recommend more regulation and possibly higher building fees or taxes. He saw Curtis as "a person who doesn't mind imposing lots of regulations on everybody in the entire county."
Justice of the Peace Beverly Williams, D-Bella Vista, said Curtis is an excellent recommendation to the planning board because he is intelligent and cares about Benton County. "It's not about sides, it's about is he a person who could do a good job," Williams said. "I want somebody who is passionate about Benton County and Beaver Lake."

In other business, the Quorum Court confirmed reappointing planning board Vice Chairman Scott Borman to another term. Justices of the peace also approved buying a medical clinic in Siloam Springs for a health department satellite and approved contracts for an architect and construction manager to design plans for a new juvenile detention center.

How They Voted
Board Appointment
Justices of the Peace Craig Brown, R-Rogers; Chris Glass, R-northeastern Benton County; David Hill, R-Bentonville; Debbie Hobbs, R-Rogers; Bobby Hubbard, R-northwestern Benton County; and Frank Winscott voted against confirming Mark Curtis of Rogers to the Benton County Planning Board on Thursday.
Justices of the Peace Beverly Williams, D-Bella Vista; Tim Summers, R-Bentonville; Marge Wolf, R-Rogers; James Wozniak, R-Bella Vista; and Frank Harrison, R-Rogers, voted in favor.
Justices of the peace Kurt Moore and Bob Stephenson, both R-southwestern Benton County, were absent.
Source: Staff Report.

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