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Garland County judge calls for setback regulations

by Danny Shameer | May 6, 2022 at 4:05 a.m.
The Garland County Court House. - File photo by The Sentinel-Record

Dense residential developments in Garland County's unincorporated area underscore the need for a scheme regulating the distance between property lines and building lines, County Judge Darryl Mahoney said earlier this week.

"Building has not slowed down a bit," he told justices of the peace Monday night. "There's a lot of people moving here from across the nation, buying stuff sight unseen. I saw some pictures of some homes built on Lake Hamilton. There is barely room to walk between the homes. I could spread my arms out and touch both houses. To me, that's just not safe. That's something I'd like to address before the year is over, setbacks and drainage."

Mahoney and future county executives could apply the regulations to subdivision and lot split requests that come before the county court, but JPs would first have to enshrine them in the county code book. The quorum court tabled the subdivision and development code former County Judge Rick Davis proposed in 2015.

Several JPs on the 2015-16 quorum court said they were opposed to adopting subdivision standards similar to what the city of Hot Springs enforces in its planning area.

Mahoney said densely developed areas also pose stormwater problems the county code doesn't address. An ordinance regulating the amount of stormwater that can leave a property would be helpful, he said.

"I'm concerned at some point in the future we're going to see drainage issues that come 10 or 12 years from now, because everything is built where natural drainage should go," he said. "Every square inch of lake property that can be utilized is being utilized. Somebody can build a house and flood you out, then it's a civil matter. We're a big county now. We have a lot of growth, and we need to get past that."

The city's lifting of restrictions on water and sewer access in the unincorporated area is expected to spur more development. Mahoney told the quorum court last year that the county needed a civil engineer on staff to help ensure orderly growth and development.

JPs obliged, creating the position and setting a salary range of $71,967 to $107,951 based on the job rating system the county uses to determine compensation ranges. The county consulted with B & F Engineering, the local firm that provides most of its engineering services, on the job description.

Mahoney told JPs Monday night that the position had yet to be filled.

"So far our response has been nearly nothing," he said. "Engineers are in high demand."

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