Jul 202015

“No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.”  ~ Mark Twain

Letter to the Editor
The following open letter is submitted for consideration by your readers:


Dear Judge Davis, Justices of the Quorum Court, and County Attorney Ralph Ohm,

First, each one of thousands of property owners in Garland County should understand that the legislation now under consideration by the Quorum Court is not just applicable to “other people”. It is applicable to anyone who owns a parcel of land that might ever be split, whether split between heirs, deeded to children or relatives before death, or sold in the open marketplace. By definition in all three of the ordinance options (including the “Information Version”), every parcel of land is a “subdivision”, having been split from a larger mass of land in the past. Every parcel-split that ANYONE executes creates a new “subdivision”, and whoever splits a parcel of land is by definition a “developer”. So to whomever these circumstances may apply, the proposed “subdivision and development” legislation, with attending regulations and enforcement provisions that impinge on your property rights, IS applicable to YOU.

Five options regarding a Garland County Subdivision and Development & Planning Ordinance have recently been proposed to our County Legislature.

  1. Do not enact a Subdivision & Planning Ordinance. Address the motivating concerns in other ways.
  2. Enact the proposed 37 Page Version Subdivision & Planning Ordinance.
  3. Enact the proposed 15 Page “Short Version” Subdivision & Planning Ordinance.
  4. Enact an amended version of one of the proposed plans.
  5. Enact the proposed – 10 Page “Information Version” Subdivision & Planning Ordinance.

The “Information Version” is the only proposed ordinance that:

  • Effectively addresses the issues that the County Judge says motivates his interest in having the Quorum Court adopt a Garland County Subdivision and Development Ordinance.
  • Respects the property rights of Garland County citizens and “does no harm”.
  • Contains amendment/repeal provisions that provide substantial future protection of your property rights.

Topic-weary officials may understandably be resistant to even consider this solution, particularly in light of how much time and work has been done on this over the past three years by the County Judge and his Committee, working with the City of Hot Springs Planning Department, and with others. I am, nevertheless, asking for a favorable decision to reject both the 37 page and 15 page “Short Version” of the proposed Garland County Subdivision and Development Ordinance, and to instead pass the 10 page “Information Version”.

do no harm

“Primum non nocere is a Latin phrase that means “first, do no harm.” The phrase is sometimes recorded as primum nil nocere.

Non-maleficence, which is derived from the maxim, is one of the principal precepts of bioethics that all healthcare students are taught in school and is a fundamental principle throughout the world. Another way to state it is that, “given an existing problem, it may be better not to do something, or even to do nothing, than to risk causing more harm than good.” It reminds the health care provider that they must consider the possible harm that any intervention might do. It is invoked when debating the use of an intervention that carries an obvious risk of harm but a less certain chance of benefit.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primum_non_nocere)

Primum non nocere is an appropriate maxim for legislators to take to heart as well.

Is there a way to satisfactorily address this issue in a way that will “do no harm”? Yes, there is!

Not only will implementation of the 10 page “Information Version” of the Garland County Subdivision and Development Ordinance “do no harm” in that it imposes NO new regulations upon property owners (and provides some protection against future violations of property rights), it will greatly alleviate the problems identified by Judge Davis and the Quorum Court in a way that will be a blessing to the community. It will provide a valuable service to property owners and potential property owners of Garland County providing for a respected, permanent, and convenient access location for the information that county officials want the people to know about in advance, including responsibility for the maintenance of private roads, county road standards, and other important issues related to real estate in Garland County. Taking affirmative action to provide brochures with the website address to the two Boards of Realtors in Garland County, the local title companies, local attorneys who perform real estate closings, the two Chambers of Commerce, county offices that deal in real estate matters, and to the local news media will quickly assure widespread awareness.

In making this choice:

  • No new fees or taxes are needed to fund administration and enforcement.
  • No growth in the size of County Government is called for … no new hires required for administration and enforcement.
  • No additional government “red tape” is created.
  • No expectation that what you pass as a Subdivision and Development code will by design, only be the beginning of a continuously growing body of more and more regulations to be  imposed upon the people over time, who for the most part love liberty and DO NOT want more government involvement in their lives.
  • The Circuit Clerk will not have to choose between complying with the existing constitutional responsibilities of the office which includes recording deeds, and complying with an S&D Ordinance that prohibits recording deeds involving parcel splits that do not have a signed approval from the County Judge. (The Circuit Clerk has had a similar dilemma with the recording of deeds involving parcel splits for lands located within the City of Hot Springs claimed “Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction”.)
  • The U.S. & State Constitutional property rights of citizens in Garland County will suffer no further molestation by enactment of the “Information Version” of Garland County Subdivision and Development Ordinance. Selling or otherwise conveying a deed to a portion of an existing recorded parcel, without the explicit permission of the Chief Executive Officer of the County, will not be a crime punishable by fines and incarceration (which would be the case with either the 37 or 15 page ordinance options as they are written). “The Information Version” respects the property rights of Garland County citizens in that it does not require citizens who possess unencumbered “allodial” real estate rights according to the Arkansas Constitution, to behave as if they were living as subjects of a monarch, and not as free citizens. It proposes no requirement to apply to the chief executive of the county for permission to act. It does not provide for the bane of “selective enforcement” … it grants no waiver authority for compliance with the ordinance at the sole discretion of the County Judge as the 37 & 15 page versions do … it offers no temptation or incentive for favoritism or bribery.
    Citizens will be more likely to bless, and to express affection and gratitude to the County Judge and Quorum Court members for respecting their property rights, and for providing a valuable informational service, rather than to curse them, and vote for their removal from office.
  • Finally, the “Information Version” of the ordinance offers an effective solution that “does no harm”.  It imposes NO new regulations upon property owners, and provides some protection against future violations of property rights. If it does not entirely satisfy everyone in every way, it will at the very least, greatly alleviate the problems identified by Judge Davis and the Quorum Court as the motivation for seeking passage of a Garland County Subdivision and Development Ordinance, and it does so in a way that will only be a blessing to the community.

Thanks to members of the Quorum Court who have already provided comment and discussion about this proposal. I very much welcome your feedback from all. If there are issues related to this proposal that might be discussed before the next Public Health, Welfare & Safety Committee meeting of the Quorum Court, I would appreciate opportunity to consider and respond to your comments, questions, rebuttals, requests for clarification, etc.


Clay Herrmann
Herrmann Realty – Principal Broker
4246 Park Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71901
phone/text: 501-620-3176
email: clay@herrmannrealty.com or clay@hsvtp.com

P.S. http://garlandcounty.info/proposed-subdivision-development-ordinance/ has links to the full text of all three proposed ordinances and a draft design of a trifold brochure for the “Information Version”.


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