Residents Challenge Project Cleveland Zoning

— Four residents have filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s rezoning of land for a new apartment complex at West Cleveland Street and North Hall Avenue.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Washington County Circuit Court by Rogers attorney Edwin McClure on behalf of Archie and Beverly Schaffer and Kenneth and Susan Gardner.

The lawsuit alleges the city acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner when it approved rezoning for the 122-unit, 450-bedroom complex planned by Springdale-based Specialized Real Estate Group. The plaintiffs seek a jury trial to determine if the rezoning should stand.

The complex would replace 60 two-bedroom apartments and four rental homes on a 2.7-acre site across from University of Arkansas dormitories and Leverett Elementary School.

“Our position is that anytime the city approves a planned zoning district, it’s arbitrary on its face,” McClure said. “And its capricious because of the fact that the city heard from an inordinate number of landowners and then was completely silent.”

More than 200 people who live near the proposed complex have opposed the project through petitions to the council. Testimony at one council meeting lasted almost five hours before the rezoning was approved 6-2 last month.

Critics say the larger apartment complex will cause traffic and drainage issues in the neighborhood. They also claim the increase in traffic will endanger schoolchildren who attend nearby Leverett Elementary School.

City Attorney Kit Williams said similar lawsuits have been filed against the city in the past, but they have always been dismissed before going to trial. Such suits are hard for plaintiffs to win because of the high legal standard required to prove a city acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner, William said.

“These lawsuits have never been successful,” he said.

Williams said he has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit but plans to file the city’s response next week.

McClure said he doesn’t plan to file an injunction to keep the Cleveland Project from moving forward while the lawsuit is pending.