Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
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The Jackson Redevelopment Authority (JRA) leased several parcels along Farish Street in Jackson, Mississippi to the Farish Street Group (FSG). In exchange for a long-term lease and other favorable terms, FSG was given a set period of time to renovate the properties and to sublet them to retail establishments. Watkins Development, which owned half of FSG, contracted with FSG to do the renovations. The plan was to build an entertainment district on Farish Street, but after a few years only a fraction of the renovations were done, and none of the properties were occupied by tenants. JRA terminated the lease, and this litigation followed. The Chancery Court ultimately found that the lease was properly terminated, that no party had shown it was entitled to money damages, and that Watkins Development could not take a mechanic’s lien on the property. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Watkins Development, LLC v. Jackson Redevelopment Authority" on Justia Law

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From 2007 to 2014, the parties employed significant resources in litigating “the rights of the various parties as to Nicola Road, a [Mississippi] county road that allowed the various property owners access to Highway 603.” Jourdan River Estates (JRE) prevailed in that litigation, securing much-needed access to Nicola Road for the purpose of developing its 269-acre tract of land and constructing hundreds of condominiums. “[T]he seven year delay has been costly for” JRE and Jourdan River Resort and Yacht Club, LLC (Yacht Club). In December 2011, JRE and Yacht Club sued Scott Favre, Cindy Favre, and Jefferson Parker - neighboring property owners who opposed development - for damages, asserting fifteen different causes of action. All of the causes of action were based on the allegations that defendants delayed development of the condominium complex. After years of protracted proceedings, the circuit court granted partial summary judgment in favor of defendants. In its order, the circuit court divided its analysis between JRE and Yacht Club, disposing of each cause of action by: (1) applying the statute of limitations bar; (2) finding that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the claim; or (3) utilizing the Noerr-Pennington doctrine, which immunized defendants from tort-based liability for having petitioned the government. The trial court denied defendants’ request to apply judicial estoppel to all of the remaining claims. JRE and Yacht Club appealed the order granting summary judgment, and defendants cross-appealed regarding the court’s application of judicial estoppel. During pendency of the appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court sua sponte requested the parties address the issue that JRE, a foreign limited liability company, was not in good standing with the Mississippi Secretary of State prior to filing its complaint. The Court found that the parties waived the issue. Thereafter, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s grant of partial summary judgment in favor of defendants, but reversed and remanded the court’s application of judicial estoppel. View "Jourdan River Estates, LLC v. Favre" on Justia Law

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The Lamar County Mississippi School District denied a request by Smith Petroleum to erect and construct an LED advertising billboard on its Sixteenth Section leasehold located on Old Highway 11 in Hattiesburg. Smith Petroleum filed its Notice of Appeal and Bill of Exceptions with the Chancery Court of Lamar County. The chancellor affirmed the School District’s denial of Smith Petroleum’s request to erect and construct the LED billboard. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court. View "Smith Petroleum, Inc. v. Lamar County School District" on Justia Law

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The Adams County, Mississippi Board of Supervisors (Board) designated Mount Airy Plantation Road as a public road, placing it on the official county road register in 2000. John Seyfarth petitioned the Board to abandon the portion of the road that dead ended into his property. He alleged that people were using the road to reach his property and trespass on it. The Board declined to abandon the road, denied Seyfarth’s request for damages, and did not address his requests that the Board take action to abate the nuisances he experienced. Seyfarth appealed to the circuit court, which affirmed the Board’s decisions not to abandon the road and not to award damages. But the circuit court ordered the Board to reasonably abate any nuisances to Seyfarth. Seyfarth appealed the circuit court’s ruling to affirm the Board’s decision not to abandon the road and not to award damages, and the Board cross-appealed the order that it abate any nuisances. Because Seyfarth had no remedy on the record before the Mississippi Supreme Court, it affirmed the circuit court’s judgment affirming the Board’s decisions declining to abandon the road and declining to award damages. But because, on this record, the Board had no legal authority to abate any nuisance in the manners suggested, the Supreme Court reversed and rendered the circuit court’s order mandating that the Board abate any nuisance. View "Seyfarth v. Adams County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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The Chancery Court of Coahoma County granted in part the petition of the City of Clarksdale, Mississippi, to annex land situated in Coahoma County that surrounded the city. Coahoma County appealed, arguing that the chancellor manifestly erred by finding that the annexation was reasonable. Clarksdale cross-appealed, arguing that the chancellor manifestly erred by finding that its annexation of certain land situated north of the city was unreasonable. Finding that the chancellor’s decision was supported by substantial, credible evidence and was not manifestly wrong, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "In the Matter of the Enlarging, Extending and Defining the Corporate Limits and Boundaries of the City of Clarksdale, Coahoma County, Mississippi v. City of Clarksdale" on Justia Law

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Landowners David Neil Harris, Sr., Vecie Michelle Harris (“Harris”) and Clyde H. Gunn III filed suits to confirm title to their waterfront properties in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The State, Jackson County, and the City of Ocean Springs (the “City”) asserted title to a portion of the same waterfront properties claimed by the landowners: a strip of sand beach located south of a road and a seawall. After a full trial on the merits, the chancellor found that the State held title to the sand beach in front of the Harris and Gunn properties as public-trust tidelands. The landowners appealed, but finding no reversible error in the chancellor’s final judgments, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Harris v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Shortly after the adoption of its comprehensive zoning ordinance and map in 2014, in June 2015, the City of Ridgeland (“the City”) adopted an amendment creating as a permitted use in general commercial (“C-2”) districts a Large Master Planned Commercial Development (“LMPCD”). The amendment allowed uses previously prohibited in C-2 districts and created an opportunity for the potential location of a Costco Wholesale (“Costco”). Appellants were residents of the City who lived in nearby neighborhoods; they appealed the City’s decision, arguing that the amendments constituted illegal rezoning and/or spot zoning. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded, finding that because the City amended its zoning ordinance shortly after adopting a new comprehensive zoning ordinance and map in order to accommodate Costco, substantially changing the uses previously allowed in a C-2 district without showing a substantial change in neighborhood character, the amendments constituted an illegal rezoning. In addition, because the amendments were entirely designed to suit Costco, the amendments constituted illegal spot-zoning as well. Accordingly, the circuit court erred in finding that the Costco amendments were not arbitrary and capricious. View "Beard v. City of Ridgeland" on Justia Law

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In 1996, the City of Gulfport filed an eminent domain complaint against Dedeaux Utility Company. Gulfport did not take physical control of the utility until December 20, 2004, after a jury awarded Dedeaux $3,634,757. Dedeaux appealed that verdict and Gulfport cross-appealed. In the first in a series of cases between these parties, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, and the second jury awarded Dedeaux $5,131,676 for the taking. Dedeaux again appealed, and Gulfport again cross-appealed. The Supreme Court again reversed and remanded in “Dedeaux II,” and the case was tried a third time, resulting in a jury verdict in favor of Dedeaux totaling $8,063,981. The jury found that the fair market value of Dedeaux as of December 3, 1996, when the complaint was filed, was $7,082,778. It found that the fair market value of tangible assets added to Dedeaux from December 3, 1996, to December 20, 2004, when Gulfport took physical control, was $981,203. Based on payments already made by Gulfport to Dedeaux, the trial court found that Gulfport owed Dedeaux $1,951,102 plus interest on the amount of $7,082,778, and that it owed Dedeaux $728,117 plus interest on the amount of $981,203. Gulfport appealed, and the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court on all issues except interest: the trial court had determined that Mississippi Code Section 75-17-1 applied and mandated that it award eight-percent interest. The Supreme Court determined that Mississippi Code Section 75-17-7 applied, which charged the trial court to set an interest rate. The Court then remanded “for the limited purpose of determining a reasonable rate of interest and issuing an order for payment of that interest.” In the fourth appeal, the only issue was whether the interest rate on the judgment was appropriate. Because the trial court failed to follow the Mississippi Supreme Court’s mandate to set an interest rate, it reversed and remanded for entry of judgment consistent with the evidence presented. View "City of Gulfport v. Dedeaux Utility Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Jackson City Council passed an ordinance rezoning an approximately 0.3 acre parcel of property in the City limits. Ben Allen, individually and in his capacity as President of Downtown Jackson Partners, Inc., filed a bill of exceptions seeking reversal of the City Council’s decision to rezone the property. The circuit court reversed the Jackson City Council’s decision. The City appealed, challenging: (1) whether the trial court had jurisdiction to overrule the City Council’s decision because no signed bill of exceptions had been filed as required by Mississippi Code Section 11-51-75; (2) whether the trial court erred by refusing to dismiss the case for Allen’s lack of standing; and (2) whether the owner and lessor of the property were necessary parties to the appeal on the basis of basic due process requirements. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined the City refused to comply with its ministerial duty to sign the bill of exceptions under Section 11-51-75. Despite the lack of a signature, the circuit court properly exercised jurisdiction. The circuit court took judicial notice of the City Council minutes and video of the City Council meeting. The record presented by the bill of exceptions and materials judicially noticed were sufficient for the circuit court’s review. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order reversing the City Council’s decision because of a lack of a majority vote of a quorum under Section 21-8-11. The circuit court’s order finding Allen had standing to file a bill of exceptions in his capacity as President of Downtown Jackson Partners was also affirmed. Finally, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s finding that the property owner and lessor were not necessary and indispensable parties to the appeal. The City’s due process argument was not preserved in the circuit court, and even if it had been preserved, the City’s argument was without merit because it had no standing to assert the due process rights of the property owner and lessor. View "City of Jackson v. Allen" on Justia Law

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The Madison County Board of Supervisors (the Board) found Arlin George Hatfield, III (who raised “chickens, guinea fowl, and ducks”) violated a Madison County Zoning Ordinance (the Ordinance) section, which did not expressly permit raising and keeping fowl in residential neighborhoods. The Board’s decision was consistent with an earlier interpretation and application of the Ordinance section. Hatfield was sued in October 2013 a little over a year after purchasing a lot in the Deer Haven Subdivision, by the Deer Haven Owners Association (DHOA). The claim stemmed from his supposed violation of subdivision covenants that prohibited keeping or raising fowl4 and constructing structures—such as pens and coops—without DHOA approval. Hatfield alleges that while this lawsuit was pending, DHOA contacted and involved Scott Weeks, an administrator with the Madison County Planning and Zoning Department. Weeks inspected Hatfield’s property on February 18, 2015, and found Hatfield was violating the “R-1 Residential District” section of the Madison County Zoning Ordinance. Hatfield filed a Notice of Appeal and Intent to File Bill of Exceptions, arguing the Board’s decision was arbitrary and capricious, not supported by substantial evidence, and was based on an unconstitutionally vague Ordinance section. After review, based on the Board’s prior treatment of a similar matter and its construction of the applicable zoning law, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the Board’s decision was neither arbitrary nor capricious. The Court also found that, in light of the entire Ordinance, Hatfield had sufficient notice that keeping or raising fowl on residential property was prohibited. View "Hatfield v. Board of Supervisors of Madison County" on Justia Law