Published 12:00 am Friday, October 29, 2010

Batesville wrongly permitted ‘spot’ zoning, says court

By Rupert Howell

The Mississippi Court of Appeals Tuesday overturned the Circuit Court’s affirmation of City of Batesville zoning variance sought by Memphis Stone and Gravel and approved by Batesville’s Zoning Commission and the City’s board of mayor and aldermen.

The case pitted Batesville residents Scott and Mona Harrison, who live on Highway 35 South, against Memphis Stone and Gravel, who sought the variance, and the Batesville board who approved it.

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The area south and west of Batesville involves 65 acres near an existing gravel and sand mine, 18 acres of which was located within the city limits and nearer the Harrisons’ home.

The finding stated that the variance constitutes “… impermissible spot zoning and that the variance was granted even though Memphis Stone failed to prove that it would suffer a substantial hardship if it was not granted the variance.”

The Harrisons had contended that the residents of the area were already dealing with additional traffic, dust and noise from the nearby location that would be even closer to the their home if the city granted the variance.

Ward Three alderman Stan Harrison, whose ward encompasses the area and who is a brother to Scott Harrison, in July of 2008 offered a motion to rescind the city’s order allowing the Memphis Stone and Gravel variance. That motion received only two of the four votes of aldermen present and Mayor Jerry Autrey broke the tie with former Alderman Rufus Manley voting with Harrison.

Aldermen Teddy Morrow and Bill Dugger voted against Harrison’s motion with the mayor. Bobbie Jean Pounders had voted for the variance earlier but was absent at the July meeting.

Since that vote, Manley was defeated by current alderman  Ted Stewart and former alderman Pounders’ seat is held by current alderman Eddie Nabors.

That action was later appealed by the Harrisons to the Circuit Court who ruled in favor of the city’s variance. The Circuit Court’s affirmative ruling was appealed further to the state’s appellate court who sided with the Harrisons on Tuesday.

The city’s interest was represented by Griffith and Griffith of Cleveland as the city’s local firm had a potential conflict.

“The judgement of the Circuit Court of Panola County is reversed and rendered, all costs of this appeal are assessed to the appellees,” the ruling states.

A city spokesman said Thursday that he had just been made aware of the ruling and that the city’s board would have to discuss options at an upcoming meeting scheduled for Tuesday, November 2.