Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

TOP STORY >>City has 20 days to reply to suit

Leader staff writer

Sherwood placed a moratorium on any development plans for the North Hills Country Club to get the sale price lowered and more time to get an appraisal, according to an appeal filed Friday by the owners of the facility. Sherwood has 20 days, about June 8, to respond to the appeal, and then the issue could end up in court.

“We are studying the complaint,” said City Attorney Steve Cobb, “and will make the appropriate response in a timely manner.”
In the meantime the condition of the golf course deteriorates as very little landscape and maintenance work is being done to the property since it officially closed earlier this month.

Jim Rodgers and Thomas Eanes, owners of the North Hills Country Club, believe that Sherwood’s building moratorium killed their $5.1 million sale of the course and that the city may only offer up to $1.7 million for the 106-acre facility. The appeal asks Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox to reverse the city resolution and declare it “to be void and of no force and effect.”

The appeal names the city, the mayor and all eight aldermen as defendants.

According to the appeal, the city discussed and voted on the resolution April 23 even though it was not on the original agenda. The resolution called for a “six-month moratorium on the filing of applications for rezonings, subdivision plats and for the issuance of building permits for the area known as North Hills Country Club.”

The Sherwood City Council voted 8-0 to approve the resolution.

The owners’ attorney Stuart Hankins, in the appeal, called the resolution “arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, unlawful, oppressive and discriminatory.”

The appeal states the city’s actions were improper because it only applies to “the North Hills Country Club property, and no other property or property owner in the City of Sherwood is affected by it.”

Sherwood approved a building moratorium once before to stop the construction of an apartment complex. That builder filed a lawsuit, and the city pulled the moratorium.

This moratorium, according to the appeal, “effectively stops all development and pending or potential sales of the North Hills Country Club property in an unlawful attempt to cause termination of the real estate sales contract for the unlawful purpose of helping to obtain a direct economic benefit in the lowering of the sales price for the City’s intention of acquiring the North Hills Country Club property for use as a municipal facility.”

Hankins wrote in the appeal that the owners had entered into a written agreement with Ron Campbell and Roy Marples to buy the acreage for $5.1 million. Campbell and Marples envisioned turning the property into a gated high-end development of single-family homes.

“The closing of the country club and the sale of North Hills Country Club property to developers were motivating factors in the City’s adoption of the moratorium resolution,” the appeal claims.

The appeal also claims that the moratorium “effectively grants the city a free option to purchase the North Hills Country Club property for six months while the city decides whether or not to condemn the property presumably based upon the conclusions of a feasibility study and an appraisal of the property.”

Hankins said the moratorium is “unlawful because its stated purpose exceeds the statutory power granted to cities to condemn property.”