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  • Landowner Lorie White talks to the CAW board

A possible conservation easement deal with the chairman of the Pulaski County Planning Board has angered a group of Lake Maumelle Watershed landowners, who lodged complaints about a perceived conflict of interest this afternoon at the Central Arkansas Water board meeting.

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CAW has a deal in the works with Planning Board chair Ray Vogelpohl for a conservation easement on his 335 acres that would restrict development on the land. CAW, which has never before paid for a conservation easement, has allocated $500,000 for that purpose in the 2013 Capital Projects budget, which could potentially go directly to Vogelpohl (paid for by consumers via a 45-cents-per-month watershed management fee). CAW officials stressed that the deal, which has been in negotiation for five years, was not yet official and that the $500,000 was a placeholder figure, as they do not yet have a figure for the proposed easement. An appraisal completed last month valued the easement at more than $800,000.

Vogelpohl has been on the county Planning Board since 2006, the only member who owns land in the watershed. He has been a supporter of the 2008 subdivision ordinance and the land-use ordinance set for a vote by the Quorum Court later this month. Both ordinances have been subjects of great controversy, with vehement protests from some landowners.

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A group of around ten landowners attended the CAW meeting, with three of them speaking to complain to the board that the potential easement deal had the appearance of impropriety. They also said that no one had been in touch with them about easement deals on their land.