Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
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In 2008, the City of Gulfport undertook a project to replace the infrastructure associated with its water and sewer systems relating to damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The repair project involved federal, state, and local agencies and ultimately cost approximately $85 million to complete. The original design of the Area 3B project, the sewer infrastructure that crossed the Cowan Road property located north of U.S. Highway 90 and east of Highway 605 were to be replaced, and the new infrastructure was to be installed within the City’s existing easements across the properties. The Cowan Road property at issue was located in the Area 3B geographic zone. Robert “Kris” Riemann, P.E., then-director of the City’s department of public works, was notified that John Felsher had inquired about relocating the sewer infrastructure in Area 3B. Based on an agreement with Felsher to relocate the utilities, the City had the Area 3B design drawings redrafted to move the utilities. The City's project manager was notified that the discovery of underground telephone lines and other utilities required that the sewer line being relocated had to cut the northwest corner of the property. Cowan Road filed a complaint in the Chancery Court of Harrison County, Mississippi, advancing a claim for inverse condemnation against the City. The chancery court transferred the case to the Special Court of Eminent Domain in Harrison County. Due to the jurisdictional limits of county court, the case ended up in Harrison County Circuit Court. The circuit court entered an order granting the motion for partial summary judgment filed by the City on the issue of the date of the taking. The parties eventually settled the reverse condemnation claim, and the City agreed to pay $100,000 to Cowan Road & Hwy 90, LLC, for the improper and unlawful taking of its property. The issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court centered on the circuit court's grant of attorneys' fees and expenses: Gulfport argued that Cowan Road should not have been allowed to recover attorneys’ fees under Section 43-37-9. Finding that the statute applied and fees were appropriate, the Supreme Court affirmed. However, the Court found the trial judge abused his discretion by disallowing requests for postjudgment interest. View "City of Gulfport v. Cowan Road & Hwy 90, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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This appeal presented a question of first impression in Mississippi as to whether short-term rentals of private homes through online services such as Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway were residential uses of property for the purposes of a restrictive covenant. The trial court’s finding that Clyde Esplin’s use of his property was residential and that short-term rentals were allowed under the covenants was affirmed as was the trial court's finding that the amended bylaws restricting property rentals were invalid. View "Lake Serene Property Owners Association, Inc. v. Esplin" on Justia Law

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The City of Gautier granted David Vindich a permit to build a 1,410 square foot garage/workshop on his .76 acre lot. When the building was almost completed, Vindich’s neighbor, Martin Wheelan, filed a lawsuit arguing the City’s decision was unlawful because Vindich actually sought a variance, which required a public hearing rather than a building permit. Thus, Wheelan said he was denied due process. Wheelan also claimed the City’s decision was arbitrary and capricious and that the workshop “completely overwhelm[ed]” the neighborhood and created a nuisance. After a trial, the chancellor dismissed Wheelan’s claims, finding that the City’s interpretation of the applicable ordinance was not manifestly unreasonable. The chancellor also found that the building was not a nuisance. Wheelan appealed, but the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court's dissenting opinion, finding the City erred in its interpretation of the ordinance at issue here. The Court therefore reversed the Court of appeals and the chancery court, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wheelan v. City of Gautier, et al." on Justia Law

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A circuit court reversed the Board of Supervisors of Hancock County, Mississippi's decision to deny the application of Razz Halili Trust d/b/a Prestige Oysters (the Trust) to use a location within Hancock County zoned “C-4” (Zone C-4) as a marina — a use allowed as a matter of right in Zone C-4. The Board appealed, and after review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that the Board’s decision was arbitrary, capricious and not supported by substantial evidence. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the circuit court's decision. View "Board of Supervisors of Hancock County, Mississippi v. Razz Halili Trust" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from two cases filed in the Chancery Court of Madison County, Mississippi, consolidated by the chancery court on its own order. Petitioners from the community of Gluckstadt sought incorporation of approximately 10.8 square miles of incorporated territory in Madison County. The City of Canton petitioned for annexation of approximately 6.7 square miles of unincorporated territory in Madison County, consisting of five proposed areas (Areas 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). The chancery court entered a final decree, granting, in part, the Gluckstadt Incorporators’ petition. The decree granted Canton’s proposed annexation of Areas 1 and 2 but denied Canton’s proposed annexation of Areas 3, 4, and 5. Canton and Ron Hutchinson (Incorporation Objectors) appealed the chancery court’s grant of incorporation, claiming the chancery court lacked jurisdiction over the incorporation petition because it did not include two-thirds of the signatures of the qualified electors residing in the proposed incorporation area. Various citizens (Annexation Objectors) appealed the chancery court's grant of annexation of Areas 1 and 2. Canton cross-appealed the chancery court's denial of annexation as to Areas 3, 4 and 5. Finding no manifest error with the chancery court's final decree in both cases, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "In the Matter of the Enlarging, Extending and Defining the Corporate Limits and Boundaries of the City of Canton, Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Mississippi Sand Solutions (Solutions) appealed a judgment by the Warren County Special Court of Eminent Domain denying its petition to establish a private right-of-way across lands owned by the defendants (the Fishers). Because the Mississippi Supreme Court fount the special court did not err by applying collateral estoppel to claims relating to access to Solutions’ property, judgment was affirmed. "When a party has been given voluntary access to its property over the land of another and that party continues to have access for the purposes of ingress and egress, that party cannot assert a claim under Mississippi Code Section 65-7-201 for a private road through the land of their obliging neighbor. Even without applying the doctrine of collateral estoppel, Solutions, by its own arguments and testimony of its own witnesses, demonstrated it could not make a prima facie case under this statute." View "Mississippi Sand Solutions, LLC v. Otis, et al." on Justia Law

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The case originated from an action brought by Bay Point Properties, Inc. against the Mississippi Transportation Commission in which Bay Point sought damages resulting from inverse condemnation. After the verdict, Bay Point filed a motion requesting attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses. The trial court awarded $500 in nominal damages and denied Bay Point’s request for attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Bay Point Properties, Inc. v. Mississippi Transportation Commission" on Justia Law

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The mayor and the board of aldermen of the City of Laurel, Mississippi unanimously passed an ordinance to extend Laurel’s boundaries, but the Pendorff Community Association contested the annexation. Following a bench trial, the Chancery Court of Jones County ruled in favor of Laurel and entered an order approving the annexation. Pendorff appealed the chancery court’s ruling. After reviewing the record, the Mississippi Supreme Court could the chancery court’s approval of the annexation was reasonable. Therefore, the Court affirmed. View "Pendorff Community Association, LLC v. City of Laurel" on Justia Law

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The City of Petal’s March 30, 2017 Amended Annexation Ordinance sought to add six square miles, spread across five different locations, to the City’s limits. The proposed annexation would have also added 296 residents to the City. For the Special Chancellor to approve the City’s petition to ratify, the City had to prove the annexation was reasonable. The chancellor found the City did not fully meet that burden. After trial, the chancellor found a modified annexation acceptable, determining the City already had sufficient available land within its current limits for residential and commercial development. And he found it more beneficial and reasonable for the City to update zoning and improve infrastructure than to approve annexation of an industrial area and two mostly undeveloped and unpopulated areas. There were two smaller proposed areas the judge deemed reasonable for annexation. The City’s last annexation, finalized in 2003, resulted in some parcels or tracts of land erroneously split between the City and Forrest County. So the chancellor granted the City's petition (as modified) to correct those errors. The City appealed. Finding the chancellor's decision supported by substantial and credible evidence, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed his decision. View "In the Matter of the Enlargement & Extension of the Municipal Boundaries of the City of Petal, Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Matthew Wiggins appealed a decision of a special court of eminent domain to the County Court of Hinds County, Mississippi, approving the City of Clinton’s exercise of eminent domain. Wiggins bought property in March of 2016. At the time, the structures located there were dilapidated and were in need of extensive structural repairs. Soon after Wiggins took possession of the properties, Clinton found that the properties should be demolished due to neglect. Clinton assessed 1,434 separate code violations to property Wiggins owned. Wiggins pleaded guilty to the violations on January 26, 2017. Clinton then found additional violations against Wiggins at those properties and at other properties he owned in Clinton. Wiggins was found guilty of two violations by the County Court of Hinds County in 2018. The remaining violations were dismissed. In June 2018, Clinton adopted an urban-renewal plan. Wiggins' parcel was within the renewal area, and sought to take it. The special court found Clinton’s exercise of eminent domain proper. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found sufficient evidence in the special court record to support the taking my eminent domain. Similarly, the Court determined the record offered no evidence to demonstrate the determination of the special court was manifestly wrong. Therefore, judgment was affirmed. View "Wiggins. v. City of Clinton" on Justia Law