Monday, September 24, 2007

TOP STORY >>Jacksonville appeals ruling on annexation

Leader staff writer

The 2,000 acres of undeveloped land north of Sherwood and west of Jacksonville that Sherwood just annexed could still end up in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville’s City Council unanimously voted Monday to appeal to the state Supreme Court a circuit court decision that allowed Sherwood to annex the land.

Even though the court decided earlier this summer for Sherwood, the order was just recently filed. Jacksonville City Attorney Robert Bamburg said the city had 30 days from the date of filing to appeal, if the council desired. The council desired and gave Bamburg the approval to issue the appeal.

The undeveloped acreage is owned by four individuals or companies. The owners of the acreage—Greg Heslep, Byron McKimmey, Metropolitan Realty and Lilac LLC--volunteered to come into Sherwood in earlier 2006. The city accepted the voluntary petition, but Jacksonville objected.

The issue was directed to the Pulaski Quorum Court where County Judge Buddy Villines ruled in favor of Sherwood taking in the land. Jacksonville appealed again and the case went to circuit court where Sherwood won again.

The property owners told Circuit Court Judge Kilgore Collins that it was financially more beneficial to be part of Sherwood rather than Jacksonville.

Jacksonville leaders had invested millions of dollars in water lines and utility infrastructure in the area, always assuming that the land, which reaches up to the back side of Little Rock Air Force Base, would eventually become part of the city.

Jacksonville also has planning jurisdiction over the area, which includes complying with Air Force’s restrictions on commercial and residential growth in the area. The Air Force requires low density housing in the areas off its runaway as a safety precaution. Sherwood has said it would honor the development agreement with the military.

“We are just as interested in doing the right thing with the Air Force as Jacksonville has been,” said Bill Harmon, mayor of Sherwood at the time the circuit court ruling came down.

“The developers wanted to be in our city and we wanted them to be in the city and now they will,” Harmon said after the last ruling.

At that time, Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim said, “It’s a disappointment to us. We did the things we needed to do to show that the land shouldn’t be annexed by Sherwood, but the judge ruled against us.”

The mayor added that Jacksonville had spent a lot of time, money and effort in preparing that area for the city’s future growth.

Jacksonville has argued in court that the land would be better served as part of Jacksonville, and that the city had utilities already in that area. Jacksonville also has plans to build a water tower on the 600-plus acres owned by Metropolitan Realty.

Jacksonville also felt that the Bayou Meto, which runs through the area, provided a natural boundary line between the two cities.

“We’ll just have to wait,” Swaim said Tuesday, “And see what the Supreme Court decides.”