Wedding center's planners drop suit

Couple challenged Pulaski County, board over Ever After permit’s denial

Posted: November 11, 2017 at 1 a.m.

A married couple who sued to build a wedding events center, a plan that displeased two neighboring judges and Central Arkansas Water, have asked the presiding judge to dismiss the case without a ruling.

Attorney Kent Walker filed the motion for nonsuit without prejudice Wednesday in his clients' case against Pulaski County, the Pulaski County Planning Board and Neil Bryant, the board's chairman.

Walker's clients, Wesley Snodgrass and K.C. Cagle-Snodgrass, envisioned a 4,000-square-foot French-style chateau to host weddings. The Ever After Event Center would have been constructed on 65 acres of pasture and timberland at 19725 Arkansas 113 near Bigelow, property records show.

In March, a project coordinator hired by the couple submitted a site plan to the county planning board for a conditional use permit. The event center met the "meeting hall" zoning guidelines, according to the lawsuit.

At an April public hearing, neighbors voiced their worries. One of those neighbors is Pulaski County Circuit Judge Cathleen Compton, who lives with her husband, U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson, on 15 acres that abut the Snodgrass land.

At the meeting, Compton and Wilson, accompanied by an attorney, said they were concerned about patrons driving drunk, traffic flow and the potential response time from law enforcement.

The Snodgrasses addressed those concerns, the complaint argues, but the board denied their permit application after consulting the Lake Maumelle Watershed Zoning Code.

The code was adopted by the Quorum Court in August 2014 to protect the water source for 400,000 central Arkansans.

On May 24, Walker filed the lawsuit, claiming that the criteria used by the board to deny the permit were "unconstitutionally vague." The proposed event center also meets the watershed zoning requirements, the lawsuit says.

In July, Central Arkansas Water as well as Compton and Wilson asked to intervene in the case. Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen granted both interventions.

Because Griffen and Compton are peers and "have developed professional respect for one another, appreciation and perhaps even friendship," Walker asked Griffen to recuse himself from the case.

Griffen denied the request Sept. 27.

Walker did not return a message requesting comment Thursday on the request to dismiss the lawsuit.

"It's the county's position that the board did the right thing for the right reason, and we'll continue to stand behind them," said Adam Fogleman, the attorney representing Pulaski County.

NW News on 11/11/2017