Judge dismisses Rogers annexation lawsuit against Bentonville

Posted: November 10, 2017 at 1:08 a.m.
Updated: November 10, 2017 at 1:08 a.m.

BENTONVILLE -- County residents living on a strip of land Rogers hoped to annex are now part of Bentonville.

Circuit Judge Brad Karren on Thursday dismissed the annexation lawsuit Rogers filed against Bentonville over land that's 2 miles long and one-quarter of a mile wide.

Bentonville's City Council on Sept. 12 unanimously approved the requests of 39 property owners on the land to annex into Bentonville. The area cuts through a 4.4-square-mile chunk Rogers hopes to annex in Tuesday's special election.

Rogers' City Council voted Aug. 22 to hold an annexation election so it could obtain about 3,175 acres west of the city. The largest portion includes nearly 2,838 acres between Rogers and Highfill.

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Thursday's hearing was in response to a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by George Spence, Bentonville city attorney. Spence was seeking to dismiss the suit under three theories: Rogers doesn't have standing to be a party in the case; it's complaint doesn't contain enough factual information; and the people who voluntarily annexed into Bentonville aren't part of the lawsuit.

Jennifer Waymack, Rogers' senior staff attorney, argued against the dismissal.

The judge took a short break and returned to the courtroom with his decision Rogers lacked standing and failed to state a sufficient claim against Bentonville.

Karren said Bentonville wasn't required by state law to use the same procedure -- a special election -- to annex the area Rogers used in its annexation attempt.

Spence said the residents in the area became residents of Bentonville as soon as the judge signed and entered the dismissal order Thursday.

"I'm not going to pretend this case is over," Spence said. "They can appeal or they can re-file after the election."

Ben Cline, a spokesman for Rogers, said city officials are assessing what's best for Rogers and the region as a whole.

"In light of the ruling by the court, Bentonville's annexation complicates city planning and provision of services to this area," he said.

Jerry Orr, one of the residents who voluntarily annexed into Bentonville, attended Thursday's hearing and was excited about the judge's decision, but understood the annexation battle is probably not over.

Orr said he and other property owners should have the ultimate decision to decide in which city to live. He said he prefers to remain living in a unincorporated area of Benton County, but if he had to choose then he would pick Bentonville instead of Rogers.

Orr said he already voted in the special election.

NW News on 11/10/2017