Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

City of North Little Rock v. Pfeifer

Supreme Court of Arkansas

April 6, 2017

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
v.
EUGENE M. PFEIFER III AND PFEIFER FAMILY LIMITED PARTNERSHIP #1, APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 60CV-15-4996] HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER CHARLES PIAZZA, JUDGE

          C. 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.

          JOHN DAN KEMP, Chief Justice

         Appellants, 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.

         I. Facts

         On May 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 ordinance.

         On 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 Pfeifer's petition.

         On 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 subpoenas.

         On 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.

         II. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

         As an 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).

         In 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.

         III. Wri ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.