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City of Bethel Heights v. City of Springdale

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

February 8, 2017

CITY OF BETHEL HEIGHTS, ARKANSAS APPELLANT
v.
CITY OF SPRINGDALE, SPRINGDALE PLANNING COMMISSION, AND GREGORY A. KENDRICK REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST DATED 10/5/12 APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE BENTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. CV-2015-818-2] HONORABLE BRAD KARREN, JUDGE

         AFFIRMED

          Hall, Estill, Hardwick, Gable, Golden & Nelson, P.C., by: Robert K. Rhoads and M. Scott Hall, for appellant.

          Ernest B. Cate, City Attorney, for appellees.

          PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge

         This is a companion case to City of Bethel Heights v. Kendrick Revocable Living Trust, 2017 Ark.App. 78, handed down today. Here, the City of Bethel Heights appeals the decision of the Benton County Circuit Court granting a motion to dismiss Bethel Heights' declaratory-judgment action against the appellee, the City of Springdale.[1] The circuit court also granted Springdale's motion for summary judgment with respect to Springdale's decision to rezone a parcel of property. We affirm.

         I. Background

         The litigation surrounding the detachment and annexation of the subject property is the subject of the companion case. The facts pertinent to the instant appeal are that Shelly Kendrick and the Gregory A. Kendrick Living Trust ("Kendrick") owned parcels of property totaling approximately eighty-seven or eighty-eight acres ("the property"). The property was originally located within the boundaries of Bethel Heights. In 2015, Kendrick sought to detach the property from Bethel Heights and have it annexed to Springdale pursuant to Act 779 of 1999. Following the detachment of the Kendrick property from Bethel Heights, Springdale filed an ordinance to annex the property in March 2015.[2] Springdale subsequently filed an ordinance to rezone the property from agricultural use to industrial use. Bethel Heights challenged Springdale's rezoning actions, filing a complaint that sought a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief.

         II. Applicable Law

         The underlying dispute between the parties involves the enactment and amendment of local zoning. Such actions are a legislative function. Sullins v. Cent. Ark. Water, 2015 Ark. 29, at 8, 454 S.W.3d 727, 732-33 (citing Bolen v. Washington Cnty. Zoning Bd. of Adjustments, 2011 Ark.App. 319, at 7, 384 S.W.3d 33, 38). One challenging a municipality's legislative rezoning decision may appeal to the circuit court of the county in which the rezoning was authorized. Ark. Code Ann. § 14-56-425(b)(1) (Supp. 2015). The circuit court shall uphold the legislative rezoning decision unless the court determines that the decision was arbitrary or capricious or lacking a rational basis. Ark. Code Ann. § 14-56-425(b)(2); PH, LLC v. City of Conway, 2009 Ark. 504, at 12, 344 S.W.3d 660, 667. The supreme court established the guidelines for determining whether legislative zoning actions are arbitrary and capricious in City of Lowell v. M & N Mobile Home Park, Inc., 323 Ark. 332, 916 S.W.2d 95 (1996):

In reviewing cases involving legislative enactments, such as zoning ordinances, there is a presumption that the legislative branch acted in a reasonable manner, and the burden is on the moving party to prove that the enactment was arbitrary. City of Little Rock v. Breeding, 273 Ark. 437, 619 S.W.2d 664 (1981).
. . . .
We recently defined "arbitrary" and "capricious" in City of Little Rock v. Pfeifer, 318 Ark. 679, 887 S.W.2d 296 (1994), as follows: Arbitrary is "decisive but unreasoned action, " and capricious is "not guided by steady judgment or purpose." The definition most easy to apply was given in City of Little Rock v. Breeding, 273 Ark. 437, 445, 619 S.W.2d 664, 668 (1981), when we said that the enactment was ...

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