Hot Springs, AR – October 25, 2016
In this country, citizens have the right to vote on issues affecting their welfare and their property. Citizens of our developed area also have the right to basic services such as water and sewer. Unfortunately the Board of Directors for the City of Hot Springs has recently denied and actually, withdrew these rights from our citizens. The City is attempting to annex thousands of people and thousands of acres into the City without allowing those being annexed or even allowing their own residents a voice or a vote.
We contend that the City is taking unfair advantage of 2015 legislation that was never intended to allow cities to annex thousands of acres without a vote of the people. State Representative Bruce Cozart today explained this fact and is proposing a legislative bill to correct the City’s improper actions.
As most Garland County residents know, the City of Hot Springs modified their ordinances and policies to disallow water service to new users outside the city limits based primarily on incorrect information that the City had a “water crisis.” Their ordinances and policies have had, and continues to have, devastating impacts on property owners and the economic development of Garland County. In fact, this policy alone has stopped all significant growth in the county including several proposed new subdivisions, several apartment complexes, and numerous new businesses. For example, a new Wal-Mart Supercenter that would have employed over 480 of our citizens was turned down. The City’s policy has also significantly lowered the values of citizen’s properties. Who wants to buy property that has no water or sewer service? This, in turn, lowers the County’s tax base which greatly impacts the County’s ability to provide basic services such as road maintenance, garbage collection, and public safety.
For these reasons, we hereby request that the City of Hot Springs end their practice of not allowing citizens their right to vote and to immediately rescind their ordinances and damaging policies prohibiting water and sewer service outside its city limits. Further, the purpose of this Press Release is to inform the citizens of Garland County, Arkansas that the City of Hot Springs and its Board of Directors are in direct violation of a Court Order which has already ruled that the City must stop such practices, because they are illegal.
Specifically, the Court Order titled, “Consent Order No. 93-1639” filed on November 3, 1994 deals with City violations concerning annexation and water/sewer connections outside the city limits of Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The Court found and the City consented to facts that found the City Board of Directors and the City guilty of violating the Constitution of the State of Arkansas and enforcing illegal resolutions, policies, and actions. These included:
- Resolution 2821 which violated Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution of the State of Arkansas.
- The enforcement of Resolution 2821 and City policies and actions was found in violation of numerous agreements between the City and various water districts, sewer districts, and property owners living outside the city limits.
- The prevailing Plaintiffs had paid taxes to construct water and/or sewer improvements and had relied on the City’s promises and previous practices to allow connection to City water and sewer with no prerequisites required.
- The City guaranteed, in exchange for a grant from the Federal Government to construct new facilities that the facilities would be “regional,” meaning inclusion of outside-of-city users. No mention of preconditions were made in order to obtain Federal funding and cannot now be arbitrarily added.
As a footnote to these rulings; The Hot Springs City Attorney now seems to be saying that the agreements between certain water and sewer districts dating back to the 1970’s have expired or they are otherwise not enforceable. He contends that the Supreme Court of Arkansas 2009 (Ark. 276) ruling was somehow related but this case (No. 08-611) clearly states, “The issue in the Burchwood litigation was annexation. The issues in the present case concern sewer rates and debt-service charges.”
In fact, there were many parties to the original lawsuit other than water or sewer districts which actually included and continue to include all property owners within Garland County. The Court Order, obviously, has NOT been overturned and thus, remains in effect today.
The Court Order stopped the City practice of requiring property owners to either annex to the City or promise to do so in the future in order to obtain water and sewer service. Further, the order dictates that the Plaintiffs and property owners of Garland County relied on the City’s promises and can enforce these promises against the City as third-party beneficiaries of the agreement.
Consent Order 93-1639 specifically states in Item 23, “The Defendants (City and Board of Directors), as representatives of the City of Hot Springs, and agents and employees of the City are permanently enjoined from doing any of the following:”
The key word in that ruling is the word, “permanently” which mean this ruling did NOT expire or have a term limit and remains in effect TODAY. The PERMANENT enjoinment includes:
- Any requirement by to City to annex or promise to annex by a property owner or other individual.
- Refusal to provide service irrespective of the location inside or outside the city.
The Court also ordered that all petitions for annexation and all pre-annexation agreements executed as a result of the City’s illegal requirements are VOID “ab initio” which means “from its inception.”
Strictly interpreted, this means ALL annexations such as Chesswood and numerous other annexations are illegal and these properties actually should be de-annexed, does it not?
Discriminatory wording from www.cityhs.net website: CHS Ordinance 5931, Chapter 5, Section 1 (b-4): Priority of Request. Any such requests within the corporate limits of the City shall be given priority over projects outside the city limits. Approved 4-16-2007.
Concerned Citizens Coalition