Monday, May 12, 2014

Little Rock Sustainability Commission Elects New Officers

The Little Rock Sustainability Commission has elected officers to serve for 2014. The new officers are:
  • Chairperson: Benjamin D. Brenner (Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard P.L.L.C.)
  • Vice Chairperson: Ron Hughes (HERS Inc. and Pulaski Tech)
  • Secretary: Neil Gillespie (NICK Inc.)
Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola established the Little Rock Sustainability Commission in 2008 to provide advice and guidance on sustainable policies and practices.  Since 2008, the Commission has worked with various groups in the City to develop sustainable policies that have positively impacted city government and the citizens of Little Rock.

The Commission's achievements include:
  • Founding and organizing the annual Little Rock Sustainability Summit, focused on sustainable policy and stories of success in environmental stewardship.
  • Honoring achievements in sustainability by local businesses and individuals with the “Sustain the Rock Award.”
  • Spearheading a City-wide sustainability assessment resulting in eight key recommendations for the City to become more sustainable.
  • Developing a sustainable purchasing policy for the City.
  • Promoting the City's Green Building Incentive Program, which provides financial  incentives for residential buildings built to sustainable standards
  • Drafting guidelines in 2011 for expanding farmers markets throughout the City.

The Commission is currently focused on a variety of issues that effect the Little Rock sustainasphere, including the creation of a clean energy district and implementation of the 2013 PACE legislation, advances in the residential energy efficiency code, greater connectivity of Little Rock's bike trails, commercial recycling, a 5, 10, and 20 year Sustainability Plan for the City of Little Rock known as the "Roadmap to Sustainability," and research into sustainability initiatives that promote economic development. More information about the Commission can be found here: Little Rock Sustainability Commission

The next meeting of the Commission will be Friday, May 23, 2014, at 11:30 a.m., at the Willie Hinton Neighborhood Resource Center on 12th Street in Little Rock.
The Little Rock Sustainability Commission meets the fourth Friday of every month 11:30 to 1:00 at the Willie Hinton Neighborhood Resource Center. The public is welcomed, invited, and encouraged to attend.

(Department of Self-Promotion: Yes, the Benjamin D. Brenner elected Chair of the Little Rock Sustainability Commission and the author of this sustainablog are one in the same.)


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Little Rock is on the Road to Sustainability: Public Hearing, May 20, 2014

At the 2014 Little Rock Sustainability Summit, the City unveiled its “Roadmap to Sustainability” initiative. The initiative is organized around five topic areas – Energy, Quality of Life, the Natural Environment, the Built Environment, and Economic Development. The goal is to develop a sustainability plan that looks 5, 10 and 20 years into the future of the sustainasphere.

The journey begins on at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 20, 2014, with a public meeting in the Board Room at City Hall. The purpose of the meeting will be to identify (“inventory”) sustainable practices and achievements already in place, and to gather ideas about sustainable goals. The meeting will be the first in a series of four or more public meetings.

The development of a Sustainability Plan is an important step forward for Little Rock. While the City can rightfully highlight a number of “sustainable” achievements – the free, annual Sustainability Summit and the recent passage of a multifamily recycling ordinance are top-of-the-mind examples – the various efforts and programs have lacked the comprehensive coordination needed to be a true plan. There is an abundance of “low-hanging fruit” in the Little Rock sustainasphere, and a thoughtful Sustainability Plan comprised of measurable, achievable goals holds the promise of a serious picking party.

In case you missed it the first time around, the May 20, 2014, meeting is a public meeting. It is an opportunity to take ownership of the sustainasphere and to contribute to a project that should have benefits that are immediate and measurable.

(Also, I am told there will be snacks.)

May 20, 2014, 10:00 a.m.: Public Hearing, City of Little Rock Roadmap to Sustainability, City Hall Board Room.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Arkansas Court of Appeals Update: Deed placing property into Wetlands Reserve Program did not create right of public access.

In an April 30, 2014, decision, Johnson v. Kros, the Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s finding that the deeding of property into a federal Wetlands Reserve Program did not create a public right of access.

The dispute between adjoining landowners arose out of a “Warranty Easement Deed” between Riverbend and the U.S. The Deed placed a pond located on Riverbend’s property into a Wetlands Reserve Program. The U.S. paid Riverbend around $1.5 million for the Deed.

At the same time as the Deed, the landowners directly to the south of Riverbend, the Johnsons, granted an easement to the U.S. permitting the overflow of pond water from the Riverbend property onto the Johnson property.

The Johnsons sought permanent access to the Riverbend pond. They argued that the pond easement gave them a right of access to Riverbend’s land, and that the Deed put the water and wildlife of the pond into the public domain.

The trial court denied the Johnsons’ claims and permanently enjoined them from going onto the Riverbend property. The decision turned on the plain and unambiguous language of the Deed, which reserved to Riverbend the “the right to prevent trespass and control access by the general public,” and the “right to undeveloped recreational uses, including hunting and fishing, and including the leasing of such rights for economic gain . . . .” The trial court held that this language made it clear that the Deed did not “open for use [Riverbend’s property] as a recreation area by the general public or the [Johnsons] for any reason.” Observing that there is, “nothing ambiguous or uncertain about the language of the easement,” the Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed.

The full decision of the Arkansas Court of Appeals, Johnson v. Kros, can be found at 2014 Ark. App. 254 (2014).