A Jefferson County circuit judge finalized a ruling Tuesday that the Arkansas Department of Community Correction cannot operate a halfway house on property they own without getting approval from the city of Pine Bluff.

A Jefferson County circuit judge finalized a ruling Tuesday that the Arkansas Department of Community Correction cannot operate a halfway house on property they own without getting approval from the city of Pine Bluff.

Judge Rob Wyatt Jr. entered the order granting an injunction which prohibits DCC from operating the facility until they obtain a Use Permit on Review from the city.

Wyatts decision followed a court hearing May 7 and said in the order he was entering it because the two sides had not been able to agree on the form of a final order that was proposed by the city of Pine Bluff.

During the hearing, Assistant Attorney General Scott Richardson had argued that the department was immune from a lawsuit and had been given the authority by the state legislature to use the property as they deemed it necessary.

Wyatt however disagreed, and in his ruling Tuesday, said Arkansas law authorizes a municipality to adopt land use plans and a comprehensive zoning ordinance like that which Pine Bluff currently has, and was in effect in 1999 when the property was annexed into the city limits.

In addition, Wyatt said state law requires compliance with local zoning ordinances before a transitional housing facility can legally operate.

The DCC had planned to convert four duplexes on its property at the Southeast Arkansas Community Corrections Facility at 7301 W. 13th Ave., into transitional living facilities for prison inmates who had been paroled but had no place to go.They said the four units together would hold about 30 former inmates who would be required to work and pay rent, as well as take care of the property.

City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott had sought the injunction after residents of the area complained to city council members about the possibility that violent inmates or sex offenders would be among those housed at the transitional facility. DCC officials have said they have not made a decision on who would be housed at the facility, or how long they would be permitted to stay.

The current property was annexed into the city in 1999, along with other property owned by the Arkansas Department of Corrections, and was grandfathered in as a non-conforming use of the citys zoning code, which classified the area as R-1 (Residential).

City officials had argued that when the use of the property was changed, as would be the case by converting the duplexes into transitional living facilities, city approval would be needed.

Residents of the area had also complained that they were not notified of the DCCs plans, something DCC personnel admitted later was a mistake.

In the ruling, Wyatt said the Arkansas Board of Correction, their officers, agents, servants, employees and attorneys are subject to the injunction, as are other agencies who are involved with the DCC or the corrections board.

The injunction will remain in effect until DCC receives a use permit from the city to operate the planned facility, Wyatt said in the ruling.