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IN RE: INCLUSION INTO THE CITY OF RIDGELAND, MISSISSIPPI WALTER SCHMIDT, ET AL v. CITY OF JACKSON

SEPTEMBER 03, 1986

IN RE: INCLUSION INTO THE CITY OF RIDGELAND, MISSISSIPPI WALTER SCHMIDT, ET AL
v.
CITY OF JACKSON



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, P.J.; ROBERTSON AND ANDERSON, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

Today's appeal is that of persons residing in an unincorporated area contiguous to two incorporated municipalities. These persons petitioned to be included in one of the adjoining municipalities which has answered and agreed to the annexation, only to find that the rebuffed municipality vehemently objects.

 The principal question presented is whether the complaint in the nature of a petition for inclusion has been joined by two-thirds of the qualified electors of the area tendered for annexation, The Chancellor answered this question in the negative and dismissed the complaint. For the reasons articulated below, we affirm.

 II.

 On October 1, 1984, ninety-nine persons, Plaintiffs below and Appellants here, invoked the provisions of Miss. Code Ann. 21-1-45 (1972) and sought incorporation into the City of

 Ridgeland, Mississippi, an area largely rectangular in an east-west sense, situated in Madison County and adjoining the city of Ridgeland on that city's western boundary. The southernmost boundary of the area in dispute is contiguous to the northern boundary of the City of Jackson along the Hinds-Madison County line.

 The City of Ridgeland answered the complaint and admitted its allegations, apparently agreeing that the area in controversy should be annexed to that city. The City of Jackson, however, vigorously resisted the complaint and sought dismissal on numerous jurisdictional and procedural grounds - short of an adjudication on the merits.

 On March 27, 1985, the matter was heard in the Chancery Court on these preliminary issues. Substantial testimony was adduced going to the question whether two-thirds of the qualified electors in the geographical area sought to be made a part of the City of Ridgeland had in fact and in law joined the complaint. On April 23, 1985, the Chancery Court released its opinion finding the complaint inadequate, jurisdictionally and procedurally. On May 24, 1985, the Chancery Court entered its final order dismissing the complaint. This appeal has followed.

 III.

 The legislature of this state has by statutory enactment prescribed a means-by which persons may obtain annexation to municipalities adjacent to the areas in which they live. Miss. Code Ann. 21-1-45 ana -47 (1972). In pertinent part Section 21-1-45 provides for the filing of a complaint

 which said petition [complaint] shall be signed by at least two-thirds (2/3) of the qualified electors residing in the territory proposed to be included in . . . such municipality.

 The matter of inclusion of one's home and surroundings into an adjacent municipality is of considerable importance. The municipality into whose corporate limits the petitioners seek to come, as well as other adjacent or nearby municipalities, have important and often conflicting interests at stake. Our responsibility is to see that the mechanism the legislature has afforded be a viable one, fairly administered, not entailed by hypertechnical procedural niceties. See Enlargement of the boundaries of Yazoo City v. City of Yazoo City, 452 So.2d 837, 843 (Miss. 1984); See also Dotson v. City of Indianola, 551 F. Supp. 515, 519 (N.D. Miss. 1982).

 The City of Jackson is dead wrong when it urges that Section 21-1-45's remedy is available only to persons who are already the inhabitants of an incorporated territory. While we concede that the statute could have been more clearly worded, it may not be read in its entirety without the realization that the legislature has provided that both persons within an incorporated territory at the time of petitioning as well as those without may upon proper showing enjoy the remedy it affords. As indicated above, the area in question at present is an unincorporated area of Madison County. It is a "territory contiguous ...


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