CITY OF NORTH LITTLE ROCK; MAYOR JOE SMITH; ALDERMAN DEBI ROSS; ALDERMAN BETH WHITE; ALDERMAN LINDA ROBINSON; ALDERMAN MAURICE TAYLOR; ALDERMAN STEVE BAXTER; ALDERMAN BRUCE FOUTCH; ALDERMAN MURRY WITCHER; AND ALDERMAN CHARLIE HIGHT IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, APPELLANTS
EUGENE M. PFEIFER III AND PFEIFER FAMILY LIMITED PARTNERSHIP #1, APPELLEES
FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 60CV-15-4996]
HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER CHARLES PIAZZA, JUDGE
Jason Carter, City Att'y, by: Marie-Bernarde Miller,
Deputy City Att'y, for appellants.
Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull PLLC, by: John E. Tull III,
and Joseph R. Falasco, for appellees.
DAN KEMP, Chief Justice
City of North Little Rock; Mayor Joe Smith; Alderman Debi
Ross; Alderman Beth White; Alderman Linda Robinson; Alderman
Maurice Taylor; Alderman Steve Baxter; Alderman Bruce Foutch;
Alderman Murry Witcher; and Alderman Charlie Hight ("the
City"), in their official capacities, appeal an order of
the Pulaski County Circuit Court granting a writ of mandamus
filed by Eugene M. Pfeifer III and the Pfeifer Family Limited
Partnership #1 ("Pfeifer"). For reversal, the City
challenges the subject-matter jurisdiction of the circuit
court and contends that the circuit court abused its
discretion in granting the writ of mandamus. We affirm the
circuit court's ruling as modified.
12, 2015, Pfeifer petitioned the City to create Northshore
Lane Multipurpose Municipal Improvement District No. 36 and
claimed to be a majority owner in the assessed value of the
property within the district. Pfeifer estimated his
land's value as $17, 300 while the proposed
district's total assessed value was $28, 990. Also,
included in the proposed improvement district were two
properties owned by the City. These two properties assessed
for $530 and $8200. The City petitioned the Pulaski County
Board of Equalization ("the Board") to reassess the
properties after Pfeifer's petition had been filed.
Subsequently, on June 22, 2015, the City held a public
hearing on Pfeifer's petition. At that time, the City did
not vote on the petition or establish the district by
August 13, 2015, the City's attorney appeared before the
Board, explained the uses of its properties within the
proposed district, and requested a reassessment. The Board
then raised the assessed value of the City's larger
parcel from $530 to $82, 850 and lowered the assessment of
its smaller parcel from $8200 to $8196. Based on the
Board's updated calculations, the assessed value of the
land within the district totaled $111, 306 with the assessed
value of the City's land noted as $91, 046. On November
23, 2015, the City's attorney sent a letter to the mayor
and the aldermen opining that Pfeifer's petition did not
contain the requisite signatures from a majority of owners,
as required by law, and that the City was the majority owner
of the land within the proposed improvement district. That
same day, the city council met and voted seven to one against
October 15, 2015, before the city council's vote, Pfeifer
filed a complaint and petition for writ of mandamus
requesting the circuit court to order the City to enact an
ordinance to establish the proposed improvement district.
Pfeifer requested a hearing and submitted subpoenas for the
mayor and the aldermen to appear. Pfeifer later amended his
complaint to include an appeal of the city council's
decision. The City answered the original complaint, pleading
affirmative defenses, and filed a motion to quash the
December 10, 2015, the circuit court conducted a hearing on
the matter and heard arguments from counsel. On December 23,
2015, the circuit court granted the petition for writ of
mandamus and ordered the city council to make a finding that
the petition was signed by a majority in assessed value of
the property owners; establish the district by ordinance;
designate the boundaries and object of the proposed
improvement as described in the petition; provide a name and
number for the district; publish notice of the ordinance as
required by law; appoint commissioners; and take necessary
steps to establish the district. The court also ruled that
the writ of mandamus mooted the conditional appeal pleaded in
Pfeifer's amended complaint. The City then timely filed
its notice of appeal.
initial matter, the City raises several
subject-matter-jurisdiction challenges to the circuit
court's grant of Pfeifer's petition for writ of
mandamus and order to compel the city council to establish
the improvement district by ordinance. Specifically, the City
contends that the circuit court lacked subject-matter
jurisdiction because (1) it did not have the power to grant
the relief requested; (2) a justiciable controversy did not
exist, and the matter was moot; (3) Pfeifer failed to exhaust
his administrative remedies; and (4) Pfeifer had an adequate
remedy by appeal. The City asserts that because the circuit
court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction, this court also
lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to hear the instant appeal.
If the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction, this
court also lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. Barrows v.
City of Fort Smith, 2010 Ark. 73, 360 S.W.3d 117;
Vanderpool v. Fidelity & Cas. Ins. Co., 327 Ark.
407, 939 S.W.2d 280 (1997).
support of its position, the City cites Powell v.
Bishop, 279 Ark. 365, 652 S.W.2d 9 (1983), for the
proposition that mandamus is not a proper method to review a
city's decision on whether to create an improvement
district. However, the City's argument ignores the fact
that mandamus is allowed pursuant to Arkansas statute.
Arkansas Code Annotated section 14-88-101 (Repl. 1998) allows
for mandamus in an improvement-district action. Section
14-88-101 states that "[a]ny duty required to be
performed by this act may, at any time, be enforced by
mandamus at the suit of any person or board interested in
it." In this instance, Pfeifer, in his amended
complaint, sought mandamus and requested the circuit court to
compel the City to follow the proper statutory scheme set
forth in Arkansas Code Annotated section 14-88-207 (Repl.
1998). Thus, we conclude that, pursuant to section 14-88-101,
the circuit court had subject-matter jurisdiction to hear
Pfeifer's petition for writ of mandamus.