Annexation challenged on discrepancy

CATEGORY: ALD Tupelo City Council

AUTHOR: MOULDE

Annexation challenged on discrepancy

By Philip Moulden

Daily Journal

Lee County and the county school board are asking a Chancery Court judge to dismiss Tupelo’s annexation bid because the legal description of the expansion area doesn’t coincide with the explanation given to City Council.

City attorney Guy Mitchell confirmed Wednesday that the area described is more extensive than intended, but maintained the problem can be resolved during court proceedings. The city need not submit another petition, he said.

“It is not something that would be cause for dismissal,” Mitchell said. “At least, I hope not. You’re talking about an awful lot of expense and time to start the process over …”

The point of contention centers on the Tupelo-Lee Industrial Park South, which was purportedly removed from the city’s original annexation plan before City Council’s final approval last November.

But the description of the target area in the final ordinance included about 90 acres of the industrial park, plus, apparently, a part of one building. The error was revealed when the industrial park filed a motion to intervene in the case.

But Mitchell said the city has reached an agreement with industrial park attorney Ben Logan, promising to forgo any attempt to justify inclusion of the park during court hearings.

“The court has the duty, if you don’t meet your burden of proof, to remove that portion (of the annexation),” Mitchell said. “We discussed that with Logan and we assured him we are not going to present proof on that portion.”

The Lee County School Board contends the erroneous description violates state law, which mandates that City Council must pass an ordinance “defining with certainty” the territory proposed to be annexed. The ordinance did not conform with the council’s understanding of the area involved and therefore “is not in compliance with the statutory requirements,” school board attorney Gary Carnathan said in his motion.

The county’s pending motion followed the same line, noting the council “has not had an opportunity to vote upon and pass an ordinance correctly and properly describing the true area to be annexed …”

Although not named as defendants in the city’s annexation petition, the county and county school district also have motions before the court to allow them to intervene. Both contended the city’s planned expansion would adversely affect their revenues and services.

Chancellor Tim Irvin has not yet acted on the motions to intervene, a necessary prelude to acting on the motions to dismiss. But there is little doubt they will be allowed to join the case.

Meanwhile, the city has proposed a six-month period for the discovery process, a procedure by which the opposing parties learn what evidence the other side intends to present at trial. The trial would follow fairly soon thereafter, probably by late fall, Mitchell said.

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