Leader Blues

Friday, August 18, 2006

TOP STORY >>Council votes to appeal Sherwood land grab

IN SHORT: Jacksonville takes case to circuit court to stop annexation of 2,000 acres that Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines approved earlier this month.

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville City Council unanimously voted Thursday night to appeal a decision that would allow Sherwood to annex 2,000 acres of land, and at the same time agreed to bring in 160 acres into the city.

The council approved the voluntary annexation of StoneRidge Subdivision at the western edge of Jacksonville.

Meanwhile, the land that the city is fighting to keep out of Sherwood is located west and north of Jacksonville, and most of it is closer to the center of Jacksonville than Sherwood. It stretches north of Sherwood, along Jacksonville’s western boundary and touches the edge of Little Rock Air Force Base.

Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines approved the annexation in an order released earlier this month after reviewing arguments from both Sherwood and Jacksonville. City Attorney Bob Bamburg told aldermen that the appeal would take the case to circuit court and would be “trial de novo,” meaning to start over.

In law, the expression literally means “new trial.” It is most often used in certain legal systems that provide for one form of trial, then another if a party remains unsatisfied with the decision.

In the new trial, the circuit court judge will not review the briefs given to Villines or his findings. “Both cities will have to present their arguments again, from scratch,” Bamburg explained.

The four owners of the undeveloped land—Greg Heslep, Byron McKimmey, Metropolitan Trust and Lilac LLC— wanted to become part of Sherwood and signed a voluntary annexation petition earlier this year.

Because the land belongs to the county, the judge had to make the decision to release the land. Jacksonville made it clear to the judge that it opposed the annexation on a number of counts. Jacksonville believes that because part of the land is inside the military’s aircraft safety zone, which the city is responsible for, that the land should not be a part of Sherwood.

“We would never allow anything that would jeopardize the base,” insisted Sherwood’s city engineer Mike Clayton.

Jacksonville also believes it is better suited to serve the area as it has utility lines in place and plans for a water storage tank in the area.

“Don’t worry,” Sherwood Mayor Bill Harmon said earlier, “we’ll provide service.”

Villines said in his order that the court “does not believe its discretion extends to determining which municipality is better able to adapt the property to municipal use…the petition for annexation is granted.”

He also said, “The court is not persuaded that extraterritorial planning jurisdiction precludes annexation.” Bamburg was directed by the council to go ahead and file the appeal by the end of the month.