City enters second waterfront property dispute

The City of Biloxi has filed a motion to join in another waterfront dispute where Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is, “contrary to law and facts,” attempting to claim waterfront land as state-owned.

The latest case involves the private property-owners court battle with the Secretary of State in a case originally styled “Lady Luck Biloxi, Joe Aldrich, Jackie Aldrich and John Bret Aldrich vs. Secretary of State.” The case involves the site of the former Lady Luck casino, at U.S. 90 just west of Oak Street, and property owned by the Aldrich family, who once operated the Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant at the site.

This latest case comes weeks after the city, Biloxi Public Schools and Harrison County filed motions to intervene into a similar suit that has threatened Margaritaville’s plans to construct a new hotel and an amusement park next to its Point Cadet site.

The Secretary of State is seeking to declare that all of the dry land up to U.S. 90, and in some cases part of the highway itself, is public tidelands. The claim is contrary to previous Tidelands leases granted in the same area.

The city’s motion, filed Friday in Harrison County Chancery Court, asks that if the court finds in the Secretary of State’s favor, the Secretary of State should be directed to use Tidelands funds to pay the city future lost property taxes for the site, by Jan. 31 of each year.

In order to confirm that the Tidelands fund has sufficient money to cover the annual reimbursement, the city’s motion asks the court to order the Secretary of State to supply an accounting of the Tidelands fund since its inception, including annual gross revenues from Tidelands leases, the Secretary of State’s administrative costs and the amount of funds remaining.

The city’s motion also notes that City Attorney Peter Abide asked in July and August about the Secretary of State’s plans to reimburse the city for lost property taxes, but has not received a reply. The city also asks the court to hold harmless the city for reimbursement of any property taxes that have been previously paid on the site.

In its filing, the city also maintains that the Secretary of State is overstepping his authority. The state Legislature has never delegated to the Secretary of State “total, exclusive, or irrevocable authority over the Public Tidelands Trust” or tidelands themselves.
See motion and supporting documents in Aldrich case
See motion and supporting documents in Margaritaville case
See the Secretary of State’s proposed Tidelands line in the Margaritaville case