Perry’s Clean Up Plea

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 14, 2012

County was ready to hear clean-up plea

By Billy Davis

Panola County supervisors got a tongue lashing Monday about abandoned and unkept property around Sardis Lake. But the county officials responded that an effort is already under way to address the problem.

Along with a sharp tongue, Sardis Lake Estates resident Joyce Perry brought poster boards filled with photos of junky homes and yards.

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Perry also presented a petition signed by residents who support a crackdown on junky property.

Sardis Lake Estates is located on the south side of the upper lake.

The area is also known as the Cole’s Point community, where Sardis Lake Drive is the main thoroughfare from Highway 315 to the lake waters.

Perry said she has been a Sardis Lake resident for 22 years and has watched the community deteriorate, driving down home values over time.

“It’s called Sardis Lake ‘Estates.’ People laugh at that,” she told the county board.

Board President Kelly Morris, responding to Perry’s complaint, said county government is currently notifying landowners, with plans to hold public hearings if properties are not cleaned up.

Michael Purdy, who oversees the county land use office, told The Panolian supervisors have been fielding complaints from Perry and other citizens for several months.

Like Morris, Purdy came prepared Monday to tell Perry the county is addressing the issue.

Board attorney Bill McKenzie, who was also prepared to discuss it, explained to Perry that Mississippi law requires a majority of residents within 750 feet of the property must request a hearing.

The county board then decides if the property is a “menace” to public health in the community.

“It’s a lengthy process,” Supervisor John Thomas advised Perry.

Later in the county meeting, McKenzie and the Board of Supervisors set the first of those hearings for the second Monday in October, October 8.

But she was not done with the county board.

For several minutes Perry read from Panola County’s own land-use ordinance. She paused three times to complain that the stated purpose of the zoning laws — ensuring public health and economic development, for example — have failed Sardis Lake Estates.

“You have failed Panola County,” Perry said at one point.

“No ma’am,” Morris politely replied. “We have not been in the business of telling somebody what to do with their property.”

When Perry showed photos of abandoned buildings on the route to the Mallard Pointe golf course, Morris asked her to “give us some time.”

“I heard when a person says they’re trying, they’re not doing anything,” Perry replied.

After the meeting, Morris said any action from the county would be “slow and easy,” beginning with contacting property owners and asking them to cooperate.

The issue of forcing property owners to clean up is a long-simmering issue outside municipalities in Panola County.

The county’s land-use rules regulate residential development and the operation of commercial properties, but there has been little motivation from supervisors to tackle the issue of property rights.

In 2010 the Board of Supervisors ordered a home-based appliance business between Sardis and Batesville to shut down after the issue lingered for seven months.

The front yard of the mom-and-pop business was littered with used refrigerators, washers and dishwashers for sale.  

In 2010 the county board also implemented new rules for transporting and setting up mobile homes months after a dilapidated mobile home was dragged onto a lot near Courtland in 2010.  

Asked if he was ready to choose sides over the property rights issue, Morris said he’s not ready to “tell somebody what to do with their property. A lot of people have junk scattered around their yard. That’s not what this is about.”  

Referring to Perry’s pictures, however, the board president said there are some properties that are a “health hazard” to their neighbors.