Gay v. City of Springdale

Annotate this Case

774 S.W.2d 828 (1989)

298 Ark. 554

Edward GAY, Jr., et al., Appellants, v. The CITY OF SPRINGDALE, Arkansas and Washington Board of Election Commissioners, Appellees.

No. 88-271.

Supreme Court of Arkansas.

May 8, 1989.

For majority opinion see, 298 Ark. 554, 769 S.W.2d 740.

PURTLE, Justice, dissenting.

It seems that if it were left entirely to the cities, there would be no land in Arkansas outside municipal boundaries. This court is apparently of the same opinion, except that it would require a formal vote, primarily of city residents, before farms, ranches, orchards, and other agricultural or horticultural lands may be annexed. Neither the cities nor this court seem to consider the actual and natural uses of these lands. Nor do they consider the wishes of the landowners or the people in the community. I submit that this annexation (to say nothing of most others) results from municipal desires to receive more revenue. Usually, no services are promised for a period of three years, and frequently they take even longer to materialize. The result is that the existing cities receive immediate monetary benefits from the annexed areas while giving very little, if anything, in return. (Sometimes the services never reach pre-annexation standards.)

There is a pattern discernable in every annexation attempt that is presented to this court. The police chief and the fire chief, who function as agents of a city's governing body, always testify that they need the proposed area of annexation in order to protect it. It would be highly unusual for an official of any city to object to what his employer is proposing. In this case the testimony of the police and the fire chiefs was that if the land were annexed, they would be able to give better service because they would then know that it is within the city limits. It is a mystery to me how they will be able to know that this land is within the municipal boundaries after annexation when they evidently do not know where the city limits are at the present time.

There has been no showing that the annexed land is needed for municipal purposes. These are the exact same lands that were annexed in 1983, with a few hundred acres added. The 1983 annexation was voided because the overwhelming bulk of the land was held for investment or agricultural purposes. The opinion stated:

First, the proof was clear that most of the land was neither platted nor held for sale as municipal lots. Second, the proof was overwhelming that the bulk of the land is held for investment purposes, agricultural purposes, or to be sold as twoto-five acre "farmettes." Therefore, it was not held to be sold as surburban property. Third, there are only 700 homes and 2,500 people in the entire 7,000 acres. Obviously, the tracts represent neither a densely settled area nor the actual growth of the city beyond its boundary. In fact, the appellees' testimony was entirely in terms of the future growth of the city beyond its boundary. Fourth and fifth, a number of witnesses testified by stipulation that "[t]he lands are not needed for municipal purposes and are not adaptable for municipal purposes." These actual stipulations are not contradicted by opposing testimony. In view of the evidence, the proof is clear that the lands did not meet any one of the criteria set forth in the first paragraph of the annexation statute. Therefore, the lands are not eligible for annexation.

Gay v. City of Springdale, 287 Ark. 55, 696 S.W.2d 723 (1985).

After defeat, by the court, of the last attempted annexation of this land, the city of Springdale devised a scheme to get this court to approve the annexation. It worked. The plan was to break the land up into tracts and put a small portion of each tract in a use for something other than agricultural or horticultural purposes. All of the houses, barns, subdivisions, enterprise *829 zones, and industrial areas could be placed together on one of these tracts and still have hundreds of acres left. There is absolutely no dispute by any witness that the vast majority of the lands in all four tracts is neither platted or held for city use or development nor designated for anything other than agricultural or horticultural purposes. Under this theory of annexation, a city could locate a plot of ground with a few houses on it and use it as a basis for annexing 10,000 acres of wild, unenclosed agricultural and horticultural lands. This, in my opinion, was never the intent of the legislature. Annexation is now limited only by the projections of city planners and sophisticated developers. It should, however, be limited by laws enacted by the General Assembly since that body is the giver of life to all cities.

I realize that I may as well be hissing in the wind for all the effect this dissent will have on this court and the cities. However, I must express my opinion on annexation, perhaps for the last time. In the present case, both the burden of the election and the proof of the suitability for annexation is on the non-resident citizens. Annexation laws in this state are about as fair as allowing Texas to vote on annexing Arkansas with the results to be determined by a vote of the combined population of the two states.

The city's witnesses as well as the appellants' witnesses all agreed that much of the annexed property is held in agricultural status and that there are thousands of acres with no roads, no water and sewer, no improvements, no plattings and nothing to indicate that the property is held for development purposes. Most of the remainder of the land consists of orchards, chicken ranches, and hog farms. No city ever furnishes water and sewer services. These are paid for entirely by taxpayers and property owners through the establishment of improvement districts.

The city's own expert, Tom Reed, testified that most of the land in each of the four tracts has not been platted and is not held for municipal purposes. He further admitted that none of the tracts were totally adaptable for city purposes. I have never yet seen an expert who did not have, where developments are concerned, an imagination that exceeded the bounds of reason. The vast majority of annexed land is used for agricultural and horticultural purposes. At the time of the adoption of the annexation ordinance, the highest and best use of the lands was for agricultural and horticultural purposes. That is an undisputed fact revealed by the record.

The city's chief spokesman at trial testified that the city needed all of these tracts of lands for orderly growth and development in the future. That is pure speculation and, at the very least, future planning. The existing law prohibits annexation of lands which, at the time of the adoption of the annexation ordinance, are used for agricultural or horticultural purposes when the highest and best use of such lands is for those purposes. There is no testimony to dispute that much of the land in each of the four parcels is unsuitable for annexation.

The city, as expected, attempted to show by testimony of sophisticated developers that the land was used for agricultural and horticultural purposes only on an interim basis. The same observation could have been made of the most of the United States at the time the first cities were developed. Mr. Reed, the city's expert in land use, stated that the property of Smith, Hash, McGuire, and Cargill had a current highest and best use as agricultural lands. This was the same testimony that he had given in 1983. Neither the law nor the land has changed since that time.

According to the record, the only difference in the situation now and in 1983 is that there are 1,000 houses and 2,700 people in the proposed annexed area, whereas in 1983, there were 700 houses and 2,500 people. The difference appears to be that the city added an area which includes a number of residences or a subdivision. The true motive of the city was revealed when its witnesses admitted that it would immediately start gaining $465,780.00 annually in new revenue upon annexation. It will, of course, receive several million dollars *830 in revenue before it ever spends a dime or offers any real services to the area.

Finally, I agree with the appellants that the annexation laws violate the state and federal constitutions by denying due process and equal application of the laws to the people in the area annexed. The surrounding landowners and taxpayers are going to be giving the city at least $465,000.00 for three years before the city even proposes to offer any services to them. It appears to me that this matter is clearly subject to article 2, section 2, of the Constitution of the State of Arkansas, which prevents the government from taking property without just compensation. It is also clearly a violation of the United States Constitution's prohibition against the taking of private property without just compensation. If a city were required to give the same services to an annexed area that it does to existing parts of the municipality, then I am sure annexation would slow to a snail's pace. Each annexation of large areas causes residents of the central part of a city to move out into the surburban areas, thus leaving an undesirable, unprotected central city to those who would plunder and establish a habitat for crime. If cities were to develop good and workable programs that prove beneficial to their inhabitants, residents of outlying areas would strive for annexation. Annexation can be accomplished by a petition of the adjoining landowners if it is their desire to become a part of the city.