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TRUSTEES OF WADE BAPTIST CHURCH v. MISSISSIPPI STATE HIGHWAY COMMISSION

MAY 22, 1985

TRUSTEES OF WADE BAPTIST CHURCH
v.
MISSISSIPPI STATE HIGHWAY COMMISSION



BEFORE, PATTERSON, C.J.; DAN M. LEE AND ROBERTSON, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

The Trustees of the Wade Baptist Church appeal to this Court charging as unreasonably low a jury's damage assessment following the Mississippi State Highway Commission's taking of .26 acres used in the four-laning of State Highway 63. Specifically, the church argues that proper consideration was not given to the loss of parking area and damages resulting from loss of access from Highway 63 to the church property. We have carefully reviewed these and other points called to our attention and affirm.

 II.

 Today marks the second appearance of this case before this Court. When the matter was first tried, a jury award in favor of Wade Baptist was made in the amount of $5,500.00. We reversed because the trial judge had erroneous precluded the testimony of Wade Baptist's expert witness, Bob Stephens. See Trustees of Wade Baptist Church v. Mississippi State Highway Commission, 411 So.2d 761, 763 (Miss. 1982). On remand the case was heard de novo in the Special Court of Eminent Domain of Jackson County commencing on October 26, 1982. After three days of trial the jury again assessed Wade Baptist's damages at $5,500.00.

 The premises of the Wade Baptist Church are located on a lot situated in the northwest corner of the intersection of Mississippi State Highways 63 and 614 in rural Jackson County, Mississippi. Highway 63 was a two-lane road until the Highway Commission decided to four-lane it from George County down to Highway 90 in Pascagoula. This widening of Highway 63 is what necessitated the condemnation and taking of .26 acres of the premises owned by Wade Baptist.

 At the time of the taking, August 7, 1980, the .26 acres was roughly in the shape of a parallelogram and constituted the frontage of the church property on Highway 63. As reflected by photographs in evidence, the area was largely grassy and appears to have been used by Wade Baptist for parking and as an access area during Sunday morning services and other church activities. The maps indicate that the front door of the church appears to be set back approximately 165 feet from the nearest edge of the tract condemned, thus after the taking the church retains a front yard some 165 feet deep.

 Prior to the taking, the right-of-way owned by the Highway Commission for Highway 63 did not allow access onto Highway 63 from the church property. In fact, however, church members did use the Highway 63 frontage as an access area without apparent interference. Primary access to the church property, however, has always been from Highway 614 to the south. As a result of the taking, this southern access entrance has had to be moved approximately 90 feet further west from the intersection. The adverse impact upon the value of the remaining property resulting from this access alteration is not apparent.

 As a result of this condemnation, the church will lose some - perhaps as many as 50 - parking spaces, given the way the property was originally laid out.

 Estimates of the damage as a result of this taking varied widely. On the low side was the Highway Commission appraiser

 who estimated the damages to in terms of loss of the .26 acres and devaluation of what remained at $5,500.00. At the other extreme, there was one Wade Baptist appraiser, Glen Davis, who assessed the church's damage at $330,000.00.

 At the conclusion of the evidence on October 28, 1982, the jury found that Wade Baptist had been damaged in the amount of $5,500.00. When interest as provided by law was added to said sum, the Special Court of Eminent Domain of Jackson County, Mississippi, on November 29, 1982, entered judgment in favor of Wade Baptist and against the State Highway Commission in the sum of $7,034.00.

 In due course thereafter, Wade Baptist filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for a new trial, or, in the alternative, for a additur. On December 21, 1982, ...


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