Friday, October 08, 2010

TOP STORY > >Suit doesn’t stop annexation plans

By rick kron

Leader staff writer

Although a lawsuit has been filed to stop Jacksonville’s efforts to bring 3.84 square miles north of the city limits into the city, plans continue to annex the area if voters approve the proposal Nov. 2.

The suit, by Dr. John Daugh-erty and his wife Partne, was filed Tuesday in Pulaski County Circuit Court, Second Division.

But it didn’t stop the annexation committee from meeting Thursday night to tighten up a proposed six-page code-enforcement ordinance for the area.

The Daughertys, in their suit against the city, the Pulaski County Election Commission and the secretary of state, is asking for the court to declare the city ordinance authorizing the annexation unconstitutional prior to the start of voting. As an alternative, the plaintiffs are asking that if the vote proceeds before the case is settled that the secretary of state not count the votes or have them decertified.

The Daughertys are also asking for the defendants to cover their costs in presenting the lawsuit “and all other relief and costs deemed just and proper.” Because the election is only 28 days away and the plaintiffs feel they have been stonewalled by the city, they have asked the court to shorten the time which defendants have to file an answer or responsive pleading and to expedite the hearing.

In papers filed with the court, the Daughertys claim they tried to obtain records related to the annexation effort as early as Sept. 7 but the records “were not completely and timely provided.”

Besides claiming that the city did not respond, under the Freedom of Information Act, in an appropriate manner, the Daughertys are saying that the annexation would “result in injury to the Plaintiffs as property owners as they would be required to pay additional taxes.

The Daughertys also claim that the city is trying to illegally annex land “which is owned, managed, regulated and otherwise controlled by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. They also say that the city has already illegally annexed another piece of AGFC property on the south side of the city.

In the suit, the Daughertys say Arkansas codes prevent a city from annexing lands whose best use is “for agricultural or horticultural purposes.”

A number of residents in the proposed annexation area signed affidavits that their land is best suited as agricultural or horticultural land. Those affidavits are part of the suit.

Larry Holman, who own at more than seven acres in the affected area says he raises cattle and will continue to do so, along with growing hay, and is against annexation.

Robert Macaulay owns three parcels off Old Hwy. 67 and stated that his property is rural agricultural and horticultural acreage.

Wilson Roger Crews signed an affidavit for the lawsuit stating he owns a 35-acre timber farm in the affected area and that he bought the land to be specifically outside the city limits.

Steven and Catherine Gruver also signed a sworn affidavit that their property was and would continue to be agricultural.

As far as the AGFC acreage, the lawsuit claims that Amendment 35 of the Arkansas Constitution that AGFC “has sole control of this property, including but not limited to enacting regulations to govern its use.”

But Alderman Marshall Smith, chairman of the Jacksonville Citizen Concerns Committee said their hour-long meeting before Thursday night’s city council went while and that the group had pretty much locked in an ordinance to cover concerns of the area.”

“There’s a few changes for our city attorney to work on, but overall it looks good,” Smith said.

The ordinance would allow animal breeders and kennels within the city limit—there are some in the area under consideration for annexation—as long as certain requirements were met that mostly have to do with prevent the operations from becoming puppy mills.

Cows, horses, goats and other similar animals will be allowed in the city provided they are kept on property that is a half acre or larger in size and that the animals’ pens or stables are at least 100 feet away from other residences.

Smaller animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens and roosters may also be kept in the city provided their pens are 100 feet from any residential structure.

When it comes to hunting, the city will follow state law and game and fish commission regulations along.

When it comes to he eight of grass, weeds or vegetation on residential or industrial lots of five acres or more there will be no restriction unless it creates a nuisance.

The discharge, possession, sale and use of fireworks will comply with current city law, which doesn’t allow it, although there is talk of changing the city law.

When it comes to burning trash and yard waste, it can’t be done on property smaller than one acre. Burning on larger lots must comply with the Arkansas Fire Prevention Code.

The final version of the ordinance will be presented to the city council at its next meeting, Oct. 21.