Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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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

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H&G Land Company, L.P. entered into a lease agreement with APAC-Mississippi, Inc. (“APAC”), whereby APAC would operate an asphalt plant and mining operation on H&G’s land for a period of twenty years. H&G then filed an application for a special exception to extract sand and gravel on its property. The application included documentation concerning property, including ownership, government permits, insurance, a bond for reclamation of the property, and site proposals. Thereafter, the Panola County Land Development Commission held a series of hearings to consider H&G’s application. At the last hearing, the Commission denied the application and informed H&G that it could appeal to the Board, which reversed the Commission. At its next regularly scheduled meeting, the Board held a hearing to consider H&G’s request. Several local businesses and residents attended the meeting to oppose H&G’s request, so the Board permitted each side time to present their arguments. Following the presentations, the Board voted to approve H&G's application. The businesses and residents appealed. But finding no reversible error in the Board's approval, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Como Steak House, Inc. v. Board of Supervisors of Panola County" on Justia Law

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The Gulfport City Council approved the City of Gulfport’s application to use the historic Grass Lawn Home as a recreation center upon its reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina. Peter and Fay Barrett appealed the City Council’s decision, arguing that Grass Lawn was zoned exclusively for residential use and that the City had abandoned any nonconforming use on the property in question. The circuit court dismissed the Barretts’ claim as moot, and the Barretts then appealed to the Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court found that the circuit court correctly found that the Barretts’ appeal was rendered moot by the City’s withdrawal of its application, and the Barretts’ appeal did not meet an exception to the mootness doctrine. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the circuit court’s dismissal of the Barretts’ appeal. View "Barrett v. City of Gulfport" on Justia Law

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This is the third appeal from the City of Gulfport’s taking of the Dedeaux Utility Company via eminent domain. Dedeaux appealed after the first two trials, and the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded both times. The parties have since held a third trial, and Gulfport appealed and Dedeaux cross-appealed issues raised from the third trial. Gulfport raised thirteen issues on appeal. And while the Court gave careful consideration to each, the Court found only five warranted discussion, and yet none warranted reversal of the third trial's final judgment. Gulfport asked the trial judge to “determine a fair and equitable interest rate to be paid on the Final Judgment based upon the rates paid on invested funds during the time period in which the eminent domain action was pending.” The Supreme Court reversed the trial judge’s post-trial order denying Gulfport’s motion to establish the interest rate, and remanded this action to the Harrison County Special Court of Eminent Domain for the limited purpose of determining the applicable interest rate and entering an order requiring payment of that interest. The Court declined to address Dedeaux’s cross-appeal. View "City of Gulfport v. Dedeaux Utility Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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When the Mississippi State Highway Commission (MHC) sought a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) to fill wetlands in the roadbed of a proposed limited-access road, it pledged approximately 1,300 acres of Ward Gulfport Properties, L.P.’s and T. Jerard Gulfport, L.L.C.’s (collectively, “Ward”) property as wetlands mitigation. ACE issued the permit to MHC in 2009. Ward filed suit in state court against MHC, seeking damages from an unlawful taking, and in federal court against ACE, seeking to have the permit invalidated. The federal court vacated the permit. MHC moved for summary judgment, arguing that no taking had occurred and that the federal court had determined ACE, not MHC, had caused Ward’s losses. The trial court granted MHC’s motion. Ward appealed. Finding the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of MHC, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Ward Gulfport Properties, L.P. v. Mississippi State Highway Commission" on Justia Law