Lee lawyer: It'd take 80 years to use up city land

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – An opposing attorney in Tupelo’s annexation trial said Wednesday it would take nearly 80 years before the city exhausts its existing available land resources.
Tupelo doesn’t need 16.15 square miles of new territory, said Chad Mask, attorney for annexation opponent Lee County. At its current growth rate, the city has decades of development potential before running out of space.
Mask spent the entire day grilling Tupelo’s expert witness Karen Fernandez and asked her to crunch the numbers that provided the growth rate, which is 134 acres per year.
While Fernandez agreed with the math, she disagreed with the numbers plugged into the equation.
Mask had Fernandez divide by 19 years the number of developed acres listed in Tupelo’s previous comprehensive plan – 17,645 – and the number of developed acres listed in the city’s current plan – 20,184.
The previous plan was created in 1990; the current plan was produced last year.
But Fernandez said it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison because the earlier plan relied on now-outdated technology and different land-use specifications.
The most recent plan benefited from enhanced computerized models and updated land-use specs.
“You are looking at two different plans and two different scenarios,” Fernandez told the Lee County Chancery Court.
It was day 17 of the city’s annexation trial, which began March 29 and ran for several weeks before taking a month hiatus. It resumed Monday.
Tupelo wants to annex from six different areas ringing the city because, according to the testimony of numerous witnesses, it lacks enough suitable land for new development within its current boundaries.
Opponents of the move include Lee County, the cities of Saltillo and Plantersville and numerous residents in the proposed annexation areas.
Besides the city’s growth rate, Mask and Fernandez also debated other issues related to Tupelo’s need for annexation: the municipality’s control over growth outside its boundaries; its ability to afford improvements to the proposed annexation areas; and the thoroughness and accuracy of Tupelo’s plans for taking in new land.