FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SECOND DIVISION [NO.
60CV-16-100] HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER CHARLES PIAZZA, JUDGE
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Juliane Chavis, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
A. Humphrey, Sr., for appellees.
MARK KLAPPENBACH, JUDGE
Marion and Vernita Humphrey (collectively
"Humphrey") requested permission to replace wooden
steps with brick steps on the front of their historic
residence located at 2115 South Arch Street in downtown
Little Rock. Appellant Capitol Zoning District Commission
("Commission") denied the application in an
administrative-agency proceeding. Humphrey appealed to the
Pulaski County Circuit Court, which reversed the
Commission's decision. The Commission appeals, arguing
that the circuit court order should be reversed. The
Commission argues that its administrative decision finding
that the brick steps did not conform to the applicable
Rehabilitation Standards and denying Humphrey's request
was supported by substantial evidence, was not arbitrary or
capricious, and should be reinstated. Because there was
substantial evidence to support the Commission's
decision, we reverse the circuit court.
of administrative-agency decisions, by both the circuit court
and the appellate courts, is limited in scope. Ark. State
Highway & Transp. Dep't v. Lamar Advantage Holding
Co., 2011 Ark. 195, 381 S.W.3d 787. The standard of
review to be used by both courts is whether there is
substantial evidence to support the agency's findings.
Id. The appellate court's review is directed,
not toward the circuit court, but toward the decision of the
agency, because administrative agencies are better equipped
by specialization, insight through experience, and more
flexible procedures than courts to determine and analyze
legal issues affecting their agencies. Id. When
reviewing such decisions, we uphold them if they are
supported by substantial evidence and are not arbitrary,
capricious, or characterized by an abuse of discretion.
Id. Substantial evidence has been defined as valid,
legal, and persuasive evidence that a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion and force the mind
to pass beyond conjecture. Ark. Contractors Licensing Bd.
v. Pegasus Renovation Co., 347 Ark. 320, 64 S.W.3d 241
determine whether a decision is supported by substantial
evidence, the record is reviewed to ascertain if the decision
is supported by relevant evidence that a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Ark.
State Racing Comm'n v. Ward, Inc., 346 Ark. 371, 57
S.W.3d 198 (2001). When reviewing the evidence, the appellate
court gives it its strongest probative force in favor of the
agency. Id. The issue is not whether the evidence
supports a contrary finding but whether it supports the
finding that was made. Id. If there is substantial
evidence to support even one basis for denial, this court
must affirm the agency's decision. Ark. State Highway
& Transp. Dep't v. Ram Outdoor Advertising, 2015
Ark.App. 713, 479 S.W.3d 51. It is the prerogative of the
agency to believe or disbelieve any witness and to decide
what weight to accord the evidence. Id.
more precise law on this particular agency follows. Our court
explained the creation and function of the Capitol Zoning
District Commission in Capitol Zoning District
Commission v. Cowan, 2012 Ark.App. 619, 429 S.W.3d
267. In the Cowan appeal, the specific issue was a
request to build a fence at the Cowan residence at a certain
height, not a request to replace front steps. Nonetheless,
the Cowan decision explained the Commission's
overall purpose and guiding principles:
The General Assembly created the Capitol Zoning District
Commission to preserve the dignity of and to coordinate
physical development in certain Little Rock areas, including
an area surrounding the Governor's Mansion where
Cowan's residence is located. The Commission has the
authority to adopt a comprehensive master zoning plan, and
has exclusive authority over the zoning and regulation of the
utilization of all property within the Capitol Zoning
District. Following adoption of the master zoning plan, the
Commission has the authority to approve or disapprove the
location and design of any improvements to be placed upon any
land in the district, and no improvements may be placed upon
any land in the district unless the design and proposed
location shall be approved by the Commission. Such
improvements include, but are not limited to,
"buildings, including additions and alterations, parking
lots and facilities, and all other construction whatsoever. .
. ." After the adoption of the master zoning plan,
"no improvement of any nature nor any change of land use
shall commence within the district without a permit issued by
the Commission." Clearly, these statutory provisions
establish the Commission's authority to approve or
disapprove Cowan's proposed fence.
. . . .
The Rehabilitation Standards are historical-preservation
guidelines used by property owners in determining how to
renovate and maintain their properties. They are also
guidelines used by the Commission in evaluating requests to
add to or change properties in the district, and they have
been adopted as regulations in the Arkansas Administrative
Code. A preface to the Rehabilitation Standards states their
purpose and function as follows:
Change is a sign of economic health and confidence in Little
Rock's future… However, the character of change
must be managed to assure that the heritage of Arkansas as
represented in these special areas is protected and that the
urban framework will support and enhance the quality of life
for residents and visitors.
Historic buildings should be treated with respect, and
additions and other new buildings should strengthen the
design context. If the imprint of new construction is to be
positive, thoughtful consideration must be given to each
change in the built fabric of the community.
Uncontrolled demolition, alteration and insensitive new
construction can irreparably alter the character of the area.
Once lost, the ambience of the Mansion and Capitol Areas