GEORGE PRITCHETT, RUSSELL SKALLERUP, AND BRUCE MITCHELL APPELLANTS
CITY OF HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS APPELLEE
FROM THE GARLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. CV-2016-161-I]
HONORABLE JOHN HOMER WRIGHT, JUDGE
Benjamin D. Hooten, for appellant.
W. Albright, City Attorney; and Mark R. Hayes and John L.
Wilkerson, for appellee.
K. WOOD, Associate Justice
City of Hot Springs passed an ordinance annexing property
under Arkansas Code Annotated section 14-40-501 (Supp. 2015).
Certain property owners sued the City, arguing that the
statutory scheme authorizing the annexation was
unconstitutional. The property owners also argued that even
if the statute were constitutional, the annexed area did not
fall within the statutory language. The circuit court
dismissed the lawsuit, and the property owners have now filed
this appeal. We affirm.
Springs City Board of Directors voted to annex two tracts of
property in January 2016. The tracts were completely
surrounded by the Hot Springs city limits and Lake Hamilton.
One month later, George Pritchett and other landowners filed
a complaint to set aside the annexation. Upon the City's
motion for summary judgment and declaratory judgment, the
circuit court dismissed Pritchett's complaint with
prejudice. The court concluded that the statute was
constitutional and that the annexed area met the requirements
set forth in section 14-40-501. Pritchett has now brought
this appeal, which we affirm for the reasons explained below.
Pritchett argues that property owners have a constitutional
right to vote on annexation and that the City cannot annex
unincorporated areas via ordinance alone. We reject this
argument. The circuit court ruled that there is no
constitutional right to vote on annexation. Pritchett argues
that this ruling is too broad. He also argues that once the
right to vote on annexation has been granted, it cannot be
taken away without a compelling state interest. To the extent
that this appeal raises a question of constitutional
interpretation, we review the issue de novo. See Vankirk
v. State, 2011 Ark. 428, 385 S.W.3d 144.
relevant case on point is from the United States Supreme
Court. See Hunter v. City of Pittsburgh,
207 U.S. 161 (1907). There, the residents of the smaller city
of Allegheny challenged its annexation by the larger city of
Pittsburgh. The Court rejected the challenge, and in so doing
noted that states have no constitutional restraints to
regulate municipal corporations as they see fit:
Municipal corporations are political subdivisions of the
State, created as convenient agencies for exercising such of
the governmental powers of the state as may be entrusted to
them. . . . The number, nature, and duration of the powers
conferred upon these corporations and the territory over
which they shall be exercised rests in the absolute
discretion of the State. . . . The State, therefore, at its
pleasure, may modify or withdraw all such powers . . . expand
or contract the territorial area, unite the whole or a part
of it with another municipality, repeal the charter and
destroy the corporation. All this may be done,
conditionally or unconditionally, with or without the consent
of the citizens, or even against their protest. In all
these respects the State is supreme, and its legislative
body, conforming its action to the state constitution, may do
as it will, unrestrained by any provision of the Constitution
of the United States.
Id. at 178-79 (emphasis added).
acknowledges Hunter by citation but fails to grapple
with its consequences. Plainly, a state may enlarge a
municipality "with or without the consent of the
citizens." Id. at 179. This necessarily means
that citizens have no constitutional right to vote on
still maintains that the Equal Protection Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment provides that once a state has given
citizens the right to vote on annexation, it cannot take that
right away without a compelling state interest. We
acknowledge that some statutes provide for annexation by
election. E.g., Ark. Code Ann. § 14-40-303
(Repl. 2013). But Pritchett has not provided a single
citation to support his argument that once the right to vote
on annexation has been given it cannot be taken away.
"When the appellant does not cite any authority, nor
make a convincing legal argument, and where it is not
apparent without further research that the point is well
taken, we will affirm." City of Greenbrier v.
Roberts, 354 Ark. 591, 594, 127 S.W.3d 454, 456 (2003).
because no fundamental right is at stake here, the State is
not required to prove a compelling state interest. See
Jegley v. Picado, 349 Ark. 600, 632, 80 S.W.3d 332, 350
(2002) ("When a statute infringes upon a fundamental
right, it cannot survive unless a compelling state interest
is advanced by the statute and the statute is the least
restrictive method available to carry out the state
interest."). Nor does Pritchett claim that the statute
creates any suspect classifications. Thus, the applicable
standard is rational-basis review. Arnold v. State,
2011 Ark. 395, at 8, 384 S.W.3d 488, 495 (noting that
rational-basis review applies unless the "statute
impinges on a fundamental right or is based on a suspect
criterion"). Pritchett has not asserted that the statute
lacks a rational-basis. We accordingly affirm the circuit
court on this point.
argues next that the two tracts annexed by the City fall
outside the procedure set forth in Arkansas Code Annotated
section 14-40-501. We reject this argument too, applying
well-settled principles ...