Monday, March 18, 2013

Looking Deeper Into Municipal Inclusion (Ridgeland v. Jackson)

This is a follow-up post to the previous discussion on the statutory ability to force municipal expansion.  Again, I'm not advocating it, I'm simply expounding.  There are several appellate court decisions discussing the use of Miss. Code Ann. s 21-1-45; today, I discuss In re Inclusion in the City of Ridgeland, 494 So. 2d 348 (Miss. 1986).

Apparently, the City of Jackson was making noise about annexing a small portion of Madison County.  Walter Schmidt and several other residents in this proposed area opposed this possibility.  They invoked section 21-1-45 and filed a petition in the Chancery Court of Madison County, seeking inclusion instead in the City of Ridgeland.  Clever move.  Undoubtedly showing compunction, Ridgeland did not oppose their relief.  Jackson, however, fought it.

In the end, the matter was thrown out by the trial court for failure to satisfy the statutory requirements; the Petitioners failed to obtain the signatures of 2/3rds of the qualified electors residing in the territory proposed to be included in Ridgeland.  An appeal was filed.  The entire appeal focused on the signatures, the timing of filing, and what constitutes a "qualified elector."  Ultimately, the City of Jackson prevailed.  It turns out, the petitioners, in an area where 115 total qualified electors lived, were 5 short.

I would have liked to see the Supreme Court reach the merits of what is "reasonable" and "necessary".    It did not.  Nonetheless, the Justices did discuss a few points of interest.

First, they clarified section 21-1-45 was available to both residents inside city limits who seek to get out, and to residents outside seeking inclusion.  See City of Ridgeland, 494 So. 2d at 349.  

Second, the Supreme Court interprets the statute generously, to include the highest number of people in the subject area as possible.  In other words, the Chancery Court will broadly interpret who is a "qualified elector".  As a result, "the question of whether the 2/3rds requirement of section 21-1-45 has been met must be determined by an ascertainment of the number of persons living in the area to be annexed who [on the date the Complaint was filed] were registered voters in [the subject County], and then determining whether 2/3rds of that number have signed the Complaint."  Id. at 352.  Simple as that.  It does not matter when they registered to vote, so long as it was before the filing of the petition.  For example, in Presidential elections, you must register to vote a certain number of days prior to the actual election in order to qualify.  Not so in a section 21-1-45 petition; you can walk into the Circuit Clerk's office the day before the Petition is filed, register to vote, and still be qualified.  

Third, the 2/3rds requirement was established not arbitrarily, but to make sure a clear majority of the persons residing within the subject area desire annexation (or, in the converse, desire to get out).  The following passage, particularly, caught my eye:  "After all, the consequences of such annexation are not insignificant -- both in the availability of services and benefits, and the exaction of taxes and assessments.  Suffice it to say that the question of whether the benefits exceed the costs is one with respect to which reasonable people may and do differ."  Id. at 351. 

What We Learned:

This case gives clear instruction on what constitutes a "qualified elector."  Any section of the population seeking to use section 21-1-45, must carefully coordinate the gathering of signatures from the proper people, and filing the Complaint.  While low numbers of registered voters will make any section 21-1-45 effort easier, unregistered voters against municipal inclusion need only register prior to the filing of the Complaint to thwart the attempt.  


Anonymous said...

I'm very much in favor of Flowood annexing the entire Reservoir area. It would be quite a City.

Bill Mays said...

Now that is just a wonderful idea, Mr. Anonymous! That way I get to pay my whopping Lease Payment on the Lot I do not Own and City and County Taxes on that lot, which they tell me is owned by the State. It's like paying taxes on your neighbors' income! I am going to lease and pay taxes on somebody else's lot. What a wonderful deal we have at The Rez!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Mays is correct. Anon probably doesn't live on leasehold land or understand the dynamics

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just me, but I had rather Flowood annex me if we can't get a decent overlay agreement to prevent rental properties. I am willing to pay more in taxes rather than my property values go down. And yes, I do live on leasehold land. Perhaps someone could explain to me all the detriments of being in the city rather than being in the county with little to no zoning ordinances that are enforceable.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Jim. Although we are like the "step child" that no one wants but everyone wants to take advantage of, our only hope it appears to protect our property comes from being part of a city where zoning and covenants are enforceable. I would pay less in another tax than I will lose if I try to sell my house that is now surrounded by motor homes and campers.

Anonymous said...

If overlay district would have been handled properly like is done in every other municipality instead of like a private club with power grabbers like Homer then this would be a mute point.

Paying city taxes in addition to the county & school taxes plus prv leasehold fees would be pretty costly and would impact retirees, fixed income, people wanting to move here.

And in exchange for?
Can someone detail the benefits? Like what exactly the City of Flowood offers that would "keep your property values up" and such?

Anonymous said...

Flowood demands a higher standard in it's codes. Look at their neighborhoods compared to ours. Compare the same square footage of houses that sell there and here and you will find a substantial difference. You can have a nice house but if your neighbor parks a camper trailer or motor home next door, the market you can even sell to dramatically drops, so you have to reduce your price or rent it. There are now a number of rental homes here and we look like inner-city Jackson because of it. Teenage kids are now walking down the middle of the street with their pants below their behinds refusing to move over and let you pass. I am close to retirement and I can't sell my house for what it's worth and now my family doesn't feel safe. Lived here over 20 years and it's heartbreaking to think about leaving because we have spent years building what we want, but our neighborhood has gone down the tubes thanks to the PRV. When I bought here they gave us covenants for the area and now the PRV is telling people there are no covenants because they don't want to enforce them. How convenient. So yes, I want someone who has some sense about what it takes to keep property values up and understands that when they do, they in turn benefit their own tax base.

Chris Merck said...

Just jumping in here. Previous posters raise some good points.
6:02 pm-
Sorry to read about your experience.
I feel as though you are not comparing apples to apples, though.
Flowood is comprised of almost all commercial real estate vs. residential. Of that residential population, approx 50% are apartment renters. Of the subdivisions that are not apts, the vast majority are all homes built well after the older parts of PRV leasehold developments. That is vastly different from the the southshore of the rez of prv land (which i'm sure you live at based on your "over 20 yrs" comment).
As far as subdivision developments in Flowood, Laurelwood is probably the oldest and was developed in the mid to late 80's in the first phase. And built until about 2000 in the latter parts. However, I don't recall Laurelwood as being part of the city until it was annexed by Flowood after it was completely built out.

Go to our website, and click on "search mls." Search for Flowood in the zip code option - 39232- and try and compare your older home to other older homes in Flowood. You will find it difficult to locate a home close in age to yours compared to a search in the 39047 zip.

Just some thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Our subdivisions have older homes but we have 4 that are less than five years old. Laurelwood doesn't have water frontage or access like our neighborhoods do. It is a case of supply and demand. When there is no more waterfront to build on, people will come back to this area if the neighborhood is salvageable and will invest again. I just want it to be salvageable and I think we have a chance if we had adequate covenants that were enforced.

Anonymous said...

Seems like that is true. In Jackson, where the neighborhoods held their value, older homes were sometimes completely torn down for new ones to be built because the properties maintained their value in spite of the age of what was there. If the draw of the reservoir itself is compelling enough for people to want to live there, what's left is an area that strives to reach a standard that we don't have because of weak to no covenants.

Anonymous said...

This will ruffle some feathers but almost all of the south shore should be razed and new construction put in its place. The houses are dilapidated and the owners (either present or not) are happy little campers without covenants in place. And I won't mention the foundation trouble with most of those older homes.

And those cheap, run-down condos ON THE WATER on the other side of Bay Park? That's prime real estate which I doubt is being put to highest and best use.

Bring on the angry mob, but I'm only voicing what most are thinking.

Anonymous said...

When you have strong covenants, the neighborhoods will dramatically improve. Derelict properties would then be leveled and new construction would take over. Improvement and value all begin with strong covenants and we have no leadership for that.