While a Mississippi Court of Appeals decision overturned a lower court’s ruling that 29 acres of land on Munsford Drive should be zoned agricultural, the status of a once-potential asphalt plant on the property is in question.
Lehman-Roberts Paving Company of Memphis, Tenn. has an option on the land to continue earlier plans to construct the plant, said the land’s current owner, Booker Farr.
“I talked to Lehman-Roberts recently,” Farr said Friday. “They didn’t give me an indication on what they’re going to do. They just said they’d have to get their heads together.”
Lehman-Roberts’ Vice President David Greene would not give comment either on the court’s ruling, or on the company’s future plans for the Munsford property.
The asphalt-producing company had taken out an option on the land in late 2007, in anticipation of relocating one of its plants to New Albany, due to the fact that it had been awarded a contract with the state to pave portions of Highway 78. A group of New Albany residents, however, sought to block the plant’s construction, arguing that the land was mistakenly rezoned industrial around the time that the city of New Albany adopted its current zoning map. When the matter was heard by Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey, he found that the city had not given proper and legal notice of a public hearing to discuss the new zoning map, and, therefore, the property should be reverted back to agricultural land.
The Court of Appeals, however, ruled that too much time had passed between the map’s adoption and the citizens’ protests. For that reason, the court ruled that Lackey’s decision be reversed.
“We’re pretty happy about that,” Farr said. “We felt pretty confident that we were going to win [the appeal].”
New Albany attorney Bill Rutledge, who represents the citizens in opposition, was disappointed with the Court of Appeals’ ruling.
“My understanding is that the Court of Appeals said that anyone can go and change the city’s zoning map, give no notice to anyone that it was changed and that change becomes final if nobody objects within a short period of time, even though anyone who might object to it had no notice of the change,” Rutledge said.
Rutledge went on to say that he had not yet met with his clients to discuss further options, but that he planned to recommend that they appeal the decision before the state’s Supreme Court.