Supreme Court upholds Biloxi annexation victory

The state Supreme Court today affirmed a 2010 Chancery Court ruling that awarded Biloxi 2.5-square miles of land straddling Highway 67 in an expansion issue originally initiated by D’Iberville.

In a 54-page finding released today, justices found that Chancellor Thomas L. Zebert, in his May 21, 2010 ruling, “did not manifestly err in his determination, especially in light of the changing nature of growth and development on the Gulf Coast after the devastation and attendant challenges caused by Hurricane Katrina, and each city‚Äôs new-found needs to accommodate such growth and development.”

The original ruling, which had been appealed by D’Iberville, found that the area north of Biloxi, particularly the Highway 67 corridor, was indeed in Biloxi’s critical path of growth.

With today’s ruling, Biloxi annexation attorneys say that D’Iberville will now have 14 days to file another appeal. If no appeal is filed, the Supreme Court typically enters the ruling in the record on the 21st day, and the ruling takes effect 10 days later.

Biloxi Chief Administrative Officer David Nichols and Mayor Holloway will be meeting with Biloxi department heads and key personnel Friday morning to discuss the issue. Holloway had pursued the annexation case after D’Iberville sought to expand in the Highway 67 area.

“I had said all along that Biloxi needed to protect its path of future growth,” Holloway said at the time, “and given that we have Gulfport to the west, Ocean Springs to the east, and water to the south, our natural path of growth is to the north.

“The court considered the evidence and the facts,¬†and ruled accordingly.”

Annexation cases are decided in court in¬†Mississippi, and among the 12 considerations are whether there is a need for a city to expand, whether¬†development is “spilling over” from a city into a proposed annexed area, the city’s need for developable¬†land, and limitations due to geography and surrounding cities.

While awarding the critical area along Highway 67¬†to Biloxi, the court also allowed D’Iberville to annex D’Iberville High School, which is actually a part of¬†the Harrison County public school district.

Among the court’s findings:

— The area south of Lamey Bridge Road and the¬†Highway 67 corridor “are within the path of growth of the City of Biloxi, not the City of¬†D’Iberville,”

— The critical area is adjacent to the City of Biloxi¬†and is accessible only from Biloxi, and D’Iberville has no municipal streets extending into the area nor¬†has it extended water or sewer services into the area;

— Although Biloxi has made progress in delivering¬†city water and sewer services to the Woolmarket area, the city “did not do a very good job” in¬†delivering those services in a timely manner. Yet, the issue by itself “does not sound the death knell¬†to the total annexation issue.”

— The complete lack of interconnection between the¬†Biloxi Critical Area and the City of D’Iberville is a significant indicator that the Biloxi Critical Area¬†is not within a path of growth of the City of¬†D’Iberville.”

— The proposed Pinehaven Development, a 1,200-acre subdivision, and other development extend directly from Biloxi and into the critical area, and,¬†as a D’Iberville expert witness testified, there was “absolutely no spillover development” from¬†D’Iberville into the critical area.

— D’Iberville’s expert witness also demonstrated that¬†awarding Biloxi the critical area would leave D’Iberville with ample growth opportunities along¬†Lamey Bridge Road and Highway 15.

— Considering the post-Katrina insurance and¬†construction costs in east Biloxi, as well as the
significant amount of land added to the flood zones,¬†Biloxi’s addition of the critical area will provide the city with “much needed vacant, unconstrained land¬†north of its existing city limits.”

Read more online

Read the Supreme Court affirmation: To see the Supreme Court’s 54-page finding, click here.

Read the original ruling: To see the Chancery Court’s 133-page ruling, click here.

See the map: To see the map showing the area awarded to Biloxi and D’Iberville, click here.

See the detailed map: For a close-up map of the area now part of Biloxi, click here.