Landowner appeals asphalt plant ruling

NEW ALBANY – The owner of land on which an asphalt plant was begun before a circuit court ruling halted its construction will appeal the case to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Riverside Traffic Systems Inc., which owns a 29-acre property on Munsford Drive in New Albany, had contracted to sell the land to Memphis-based Lehman-Roberts Co. upon resolution of zoning questions. The city of New Albany issued a building permit to Lehman-Roberts to build an asphalt plant on the site. However, Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey ruled in March to end the construction after a civil lawsuit was brought against the city, Riverside and Lehman-Roberts by nearby landowners and other residents.
Lackey ruled that a 1997 zoning change of the property was “arbitrary and capricious” and thus invalid. The property was originally zoned agricultural, but was later reclassified industrial in a comprehensive land-use map. Lackey found, however, that the legally required procedure for such a change, including public notice, was never fulfilled.
“My opinion is that it will not be reversed,” said attorney Bill Rutledge, who represented plaintiffs Robin Bostwick, Eric Frohn, Allen Maxwell, Herbert Rogers III and Ray Tate. The ruling required New Albany to withdraw the building permit that it had issued to Lehman-Roberts.
“They (defendants) have to show either that there was a mistake, which Judge Lackey found that there was not, or … that there has been a change in the neighborhood justifying rezoning and that it would be beneficial to the community,” Rutledge said. “I personally don’t believe any of those standards can be met.”
Munsford Drive was built in the mid-1990s to divert traffic away from the often-crowded interchange of State Highway 30 and U.S. 78, which also serves the local hospital and the city’s busiest commercial area. Most of its about two-mile length is open or wooded, with only a few businesses.
The property in question, referred to in court documents as the “Farr Property,” adjoins another tract accessed by the Highway 78 frontage road whose occupant is an operating asphalt plant.
Rhett Wise, attorney for Riverside Traffic Systems, did not respond to the Daily Journal’s request for comment.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

 

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal