Jun 262015

by Clay Herrmann

The Public Health, Welfare & Safety Committee of the Garland County, Arkansas Quorum Court met on June 22, 2015 to consider proposed legislation that would require real property owners in Garland County to make application to the County Judge (or his designated representative), to pay an application fee, and to comply with a list of requirements enumerated in the ordinance before being allowed to sell or otherwise convey real estate when the conveyance would split an existing parcel of record. Either of the two ordinances versions under consideration would make it a punishable violation of the law to record a deed without a signed permission from the County Judge or his designated representative.

A longer 37 page version as well as a 15 page “Short Version” of a proposed “Garland County Subdivision & Development Ordinance” was emailed to the 13 JP’s prior to the meeting for their review. A majority “Do Pass” vote by the committee would send one of the two versions (or an amended version) of the legislation introduced by County Judge Rick Davis to the full Quorum Court at it’s next monthly meeting. A majority vote by the full Quorum Court would make the proposal law.

The primary motivation for the proposal communicated to the Quorum Court members by Judge Davis at the meeting as well as in communications previously, is the problem of the Judge having to frequently deal with requests from property owners requesting maintenance of their private roads.

Though it was not scheduled on the agenda, following discussion of the private road issue a motion was made, seconded, discussed and unanimously passed for a new ordinance specifying that the County would not perform maintenance on roads constructed after January 1, 2014 … “to stop the bleeding”.

County Attorney Ralph Ohm remarked that passage of either version of the ordinance would mean growing the size of county government. In addition to new hires of personnel needed for administration and enforcement of the new regulations, there would surely be need for more tax revenue to pay for it, and anticipation that the regulations would grow in scope over time.

Those who live “on a few acres in the country” and say to themselves “I don’t live in a subdivision and I am not a developer so there is no need for me to pay attention to the proposed new regulations” would be wrong. By definition of terms in both ordinance options considered, every parcel of land regardless of size or use is a “subdivision” (of a larger mass of land). Furthermore anyone who conveys or proposes to convey part of a described parcel is a “developer”, and the divided parcel is a “development”.

No vote was taken on a Subdivision & Development Ordinance at the June 22nd meeting, though the the possibility of a vote to approve the “Short Version” was briefly broached. Discussion of the issue is scheduled to continue at the July meeting of the Public Health, Welfare & Safety Committee.

Before the meeting adjourned, Clay Herrmann was recognized by the Chair and asked to be put on the July agenda in order to make a presentation to the Committee. He is advocating a much different solution than either of the two ordinances already being considered. He maintains that it would alleviate the private road maintenance issue, would continuously provide important, valuable and extensive information to property owners, developers, and prospective buyers about important real estate issues, would do so without any need for adding administration and enforcement staff, would require no additional tax levy, and would be self-enforcing with no need for any new regulations to be imposed upon County property owners.  Chairman Larry Griffin agreed to Herrmann’s request to make a presentation at the July Committee meeting and suggested that he also provide material about the alternative proposal to the Committee members prior to the July meeting for them to be able to review in advance.

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