Judge erred in tossing Springdale cleanup lawsuit, appeals court rules

Posted: October 26, 2017 at 1:07 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- A Washington County Circuit Court judge erred when she threw out a lawsuit over Springdale forcibly cleaning up a salvage yard, the Arkansas Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

Three appeals court judges reversed and remanded the case Wednesday, ruling Circuit Judge Cristi Beaumont has jurisdiction to hear challenges to the city's ordinances.

Among the questions are whether there are objective standards by which unsanitary and unsightly conditions can be evaluated; whether the ordinances are too vague to be enforced, rendering any lien or claim against the property void; and, whether the ordinances were passed in violation of state law.

The case will be sent back to Beaumont for further proceedings.

OPT, LLC sued Springdale arguing city ordinances aimed at cleaning up unsightly properties were vague and unenforceable. The property in question had been a salvage yard for more than 30 years before the lease was terminated in August 2012. The land is at the corner of Thompson Street and Black Oak Avenue.

The city informed the property owner in May 2013 of numerous code violations, including contaminated soil. OPT paid for an environmental site assessment by Pollution Management, a private company, an attorney for OPT said in 2014. The property had areas where oil and other vehicle fluids stained the ground, according to the environmental report.

The city told the owners it would clean up the property, charge them the cost, and put a lien on the property if the charges weren't paid.

The city used heavy equipment on the site in March 2014, a move the owners said exceeded what was necessary to abate the problem and may have caused further environmental damage.

Ernest Cate, Springdale city attorney, said in 2014 no dirt was removed from the site. The conflict with the property owners is over the amount the city charged for the cleanup, he said. The bill for the cleanup was $34,000, according to city records.

The city argued OPT's challenge to the ordinances came too late so the court didn't have jurisdiction to hear the suit. Beaumont granted the city's motion to dismiss the case, and OPT appealed.

NW News on 10/26/2017