Tupelo wins annex case over county

TUPELO – A judge on Monday sided with the city of Tupelo in its bid to annex roughly 16 square miles of land from six different areas ringing its boundaries.
Specially appointed Judge Edward C. Prisock found in favor of the municipality on each of its annexation requests except a portion of one – it cannot take in the land south of West Main Street in Proposed Annexation Area 5.
That section had included some residential areas, including the Garrison subdivision, and the judge said it likely wouldn’t develop commercially as the city had claimed.
The decision was e-mailed to attorneys on both sides of the case late Monday and is expected to be filed in writing today at the Lee County Chancery Court.
“We are elated,” said city attorney Guy Mitchell, who alerted the Daily Journal of the decision, which hadn’t yet been made public.
Mitchell was part of the legal team that tried the case in court this spring.
The trial lasted several weeks and included the testimony of dozens of city and county officials, as well as residents and hired planning consultants.
Opponents of the annexation – including Lee County, the city of Saltillo and the town of Plantersville – either could not immediately be reached or hadn’t yet seen the decision and therefore wouldn’t comment.
They have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Mississippi Supreme Court. If they do, the city cannot annex until the higher court has ruled – and only if it upholds the judge’s decision.
If opponents chose not to appeal, the annexation becomes final within 10 days after the appeal deadline expires.
Mitchell said he doubts the Supreme Court will reverse the judge’s decision.
“The opposition would have to show that (Prisock) was manifestly wrong and the Supreme Court would have to find that there was no evidence to support the conclusion that he makes,” Mitchell said, “and since he said the evidence was complete and compelling, they will have a very difficult time in any reversal, in my opinion.”
If the appeal process plays out in Tupelo’s favor, the city will begin the task of extending its infrastructure and services to an estimated 2,800 residents within the annexed areas. It plans to invest some $25 million in those areas.
At least $800,000 in legal fees already has been spent by both sides fighting for – and against – the annexation. Those costs could rise with an appeal.
It will be the first annexation since 1989, when Tupelo roughly doubled its size. A previous attempt to grow failed earlier in the decade when a judge tossed out the city’s case on a mapping technicality.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal