Appeals court upends asphalt case

Nearly two years after Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey ruled that 29 acres of land in New Albany’s city limits was improperly zoned industrial by the city in the late 1990s, the Mississippi Court of Appeals overturned that decision.

The case, which has now spanned nearly three years’ time, concerns a challenge by several local citizens, namely Robin Bostwick, Eric Frohn, Allen Maxwell, Herbert G. Rogers, III and Ray Tate, that the property in question was incorrectly changed from agricultural land to industrial when New Albany adopted its current zoning map.  The issue was raised when the property owner, Booker Farr, sold the land to a Memphis-based asphalt company, Lehman-Roberts Co. in 2008.  Lehman-Roberts had the intentions of constructing an asphalt plant at the site.
In his March 28, 2009 decision, Lackey ruled that the city had improperly zoned the land industrial because it had relied on a news story on the front page of the New Albany Gazette as public notice.  Lackey said that regardless of the legality of relying on a news story, rather than a legal ad, the story itself contained only the month and day of the hearing, not the year.
As part of the judgment, the city was to modify its zoning map to list Farr’s property as agricultural.
The Court of Appeals’ judges, however, overturned the decision, stating that the plaintiffs in the case did not challenge the zoning change within a reasonable time frame and also that the city’s zoning map had remained unchallenged for nearly 10 years.  The judges cited similar cases, in which the zoning maps of the cities of Ocean Springs and Biloxi were challenged based on errors made.  However, in those cases, the maps were upheld because they had not been disputed for several years after they were approved.
“These alleged technical failings are insufficient to invalidate [New Albany’s] official zoning map,” the judges stated in their decision.