Posted by: Patricia Salkin | November 17, 2008

Arkansas Supreme Court Finds that Requiring Compatibility with Surrounding Land Uses is not a Vague Standard

After being denied an application for a permit to build a rock quarry, Benton County Stone, Inc. alleged that the planning ordinance should be determined void for vagueness asserting that the concept of “land use compatibility” contained in the site development requirements section of the Code is ambiguous and confusing and therefore unconstitutionally vague.


The ordinance provides, in relevant part:


A.   Development Patterns.  Must be consistent and compatible with existing development and the environment.


B.   Clustering. Commercial and industrial development are encouraged to cluster to minimize incompatible land-use.


C.   Right to Farm. Any Industrial and commercial development(s) that could limit the viability of existing agricultural uses are discouraged.


D.   Right to Operate. Residential development that could limit the viability of existing commercial and industrial operations are discouraged.


Further, the Code provides that the planning board “may deny the application because of noncompliance with items addressed in this code, incompatible development, protecting the public safety and health…”


The Arkansas Supreme Court determined that the word “compatible” has a plain and ordinary meaning, pointing to the Oxford English Dictionary and the American Heritage College Dictionary definitions.  The Court further found that simply because the ordinance discussed practices that are “encouraged” or “discouraged” does not mean that “compatibility” is “defined in terms of a suggestion or preference” as advanced by Benton County Stone.  The Court concluded that “the three clauses that follow the overarching ‘compatibility’ requirement are to be considered as factors that guide the exercise of the Review Board’s discretion.”  The presence of these factors does not render the mandatory clause unconstitutionally void.



Benton County Stone, Inc. v. Benton County Planning Board, 2008 WL 4754805 (Ark. 10/30/2008).


The opinion can be accessed at:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: