Wildwood Developer Wins First of Five Lawsuits

by George Waldon  on Monday, Oct. 10, 2011 12:00 am  

Residential developer Graham Smith has moved one step closer to making his proposed 85-lot Wildwood Ridge project street legal, literally.

An improvement district formed by Smith was authorized to acquire a 7,189-SF strip of land along Gordon Road from Deltic Timber Corp. Court-ordered price tag for the property: $2,100.

The eminent domain action provides Smith's 40-acre tract direct access to Chenal Valley Drive, overcoming one obstacle to starting construction.

But other hurdles remain before site work can begin on a development that, by Smith's reckoning, could generate a gross profit of $6.5 million.

The order, signed by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza on Sept. 28, gave immediate ownership of the Deltic land to Smith's Little Rock
Municipal Property Own-ers' Multipurpose Improve-ment District No. 2011-312.

"The court's decision takes away the city attorney's argument against the approval of this subdivision," Smith said in a prepared statement. "Regardless of whether Gordon Road was closed or not, Wildwood now has legal access, the planning commission has approved it and the development should go forward. We do not see any reason why the city attorney should continue to oppose this subdivision."

Smith also has battled Deltic's opposition to his development. The corporate developer of Chenal Valley tried without success for years to gain control of the property Smith owns.

"While we understand the judge's ruling, we have not actually seen the ruling, so we reserve our right to comment," said Craig Douglass, Deltic spokesman.

Despite Smith's victory, four other legal battles remain, with the possibility of new ones joining the docket. He needs another sliver of land from an adjoining property owner to round out his access to Chenal Valley Drive.

Smith hopes to acquire it from Sylvia Butler without having to return to court with another eminent domain action through his improvement district. Butler, who lives across Gordon Road from Smith's patch of woods and is surrounded by Deltic land to the north, south and east, doesn't want to get caught up in the development fray between her neighbors.

"Let them do whatever they want; just leave me out of it," Butler said in an interview earlier this year.

Smith anticipates another trip to court to gain access to water, sewer, electricity and gas services for his project after rejecting Deltic Timber's offer to grant access to utility easements on its property for $935,000.



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