The North Little Rock School District is seeking the property of Douglas Holdings, which is located across the street from the former Waffle House Restaurant, to make way for more parking space.
In a court exhibit from the school district, dated Oct. 9, the district reveals its plans to provide more parking.
"The North Little Rock School District has recently acquired several pieces of property on the east side of Main Street in North Little Rock between 22nd and 24th streets," writes Gerald Cound, director of facilities management for the district. "Demolition of the current structures on these properties will begin immediately to prepare the property for additional parking to support students and school-related functions in the North Little Rock School District and our community."
Cound adds, "Every effort will be made to ensure demolition will be conducted in an orderly and safe manner for the surround neighbors, students and staff. If you have any concerns please don’t hesitate to contact us at 501-771-8075. Thanks for your understanding."
Two days later, on Oct. 11, NLRSD’s legal counsel, Quattlebaum, Grooms, Tull and Burrow wrote Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Fox informing him of the district’s plans.
"This is an eminent domain case where the landowner appears to be challenging the right of Plaintiff North Little Rock School District ("NLRSD") to take the property," according to the law firm’s letter. "The NLRSD has today filed a Motion and Memorandum Brief in Support for an Order of Immediate Possession or, Alternatively, an Expedited Hearing on the Issue of Necessity/Public Need."
According to NLRSD Attorney Joseph W. Price II, the district’s motion explains the very high burden that a landowner must meet to prove that the condemning authority abused its discretion in selecting the particular tract for eminent domain.
"The allegations in the Landowner’s responsive pleading do not meet this burden especially in light of the fact that its property lies directly across the street from the North Little Rock High School. Thus, we believe that the Court can issue the Order of Immediate Possession without the need for any testimony," said Price.
Price adds, "However, if the Court wishes to have a hearing, the NLRSD requests that it be done as soon as possible. The NLRSD needs to obtain the property by Nov. 15 to ensure that its construction schedule is not delayed. As explained in the Motion filed today, the landowner is not entitled to a jury trial on the issue of necessity/public need. Therefore, we believe that the Court can hear testimony and argument on this issue and decide it quickly in order to avoid any construction delays."
Price told Fox he would be available for a conference call with the court and opposing counsel to discuss the matter further or to schedule a hearing if the court desires.
On Oct. 7, Douglas Holdings filed an answer and a counterclaim to the district’s eminent domain filing. In its answer, Douglas Holdings requested a jury trial on the issues of just compensation and whether the NLRSD’s condemnation of its property was necessary, i.e., whether there is a proper public purpose for the taking. Douglas Holdings also sought relief from the Court on the issue of immediate possession.
"Although Douglas Holdings may be entitled to a jury trial on the issue of just compensation, it is not entitled to have a jury determine the issue of possession or public purpose," said Price.
Price said Douglas’ request for a jury trial should be denied.
"Douglas Holdings has requested equitable relief, claiming that the NLRSD does not need its property for the expansion of the North Little Rock High School. This is a matter for the Court to decide, not a jury. Consequently, Douglas Holdings’ request for a jury trial on this issue should be denied."