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IN THE MATTER OF THE ALTERATION OF THE BOUNDARIES OF THE CITY OF HORN LAKE, MISSISSIPPI: J. W. McELHANEY, ET AL. v. CITY OF HORN LAKE

JANUARY 14, 1987

IN THE MATTER OF THE ALTERATION OF THE BOUNDARIES OF THE CITY OF HORN LAKE, MISSISSIPPI: J. W. McELHANEY, ET AL.
v.
CITY OF HORN LAKE, MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE HAWKINS, P.J., AND DAN LEE AND SULLIVAN, JJ.

DAN LEE, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

Objectors appeal from the order in the Chancery Court of DeSoto County confirming the City of Horn Lake's annexation of certain parts of DeSoto County lying south of the city's border. They assign the following errors:

1. The Court's findings of fact are not supported by substantial credible evidence.

 2. The Court erred in determining that relevant criteria was that the residents of Study Area Two were currently receiving benefits of City residency without cost and that such was a paramount consideration.

 3. The Court erred in relying upon comparative information and facts derived from the 1976 annexation hearing as such were not admitted into evidence and were not appropriate for consideration under the doctrine of judicial notice, nor were same relevant to the sole issue of reasonableness.

 4. The Court erred in shifting the burden of proof from the City of Horn Lake to the Objectors, Appellants herein.

 5. The Court erred in concluding as a matter of law that this case was governed by Section 21-1-13 of the Mississippi Code.

 Finding that the chancellor's decision was based on substantial credible evidence and not manifestly wrong, we affirm.

 FACTS

 The City of Horn Lake, Mississippi, through an ordinance duly approved September 6, 1983, sought to annex adjacent property lying to the south of its border. On September 9, 1983 there was filed on behalf of the city a petition seeking confirmation of the boundary alteration in DeSoto County Chancery Court.

 The area sought to be annexed included two residential subdivisions known as Churchwood and Church Road Estates. Churchwood residents Gary Spencer, Charles Davis and J. W. McElhaney in proper course filed an objection to the city's petition alleging that they represented some 150 families who wanted the petition denied.

 The petition came on for hearing February 27 and 29, 1984 and March 1 and 2, 1984.

 In his findings of facts and conclusions of law issued April 30, 1984, the chancellor found the proposed annexation reasonable and it was thus ratified, approved and confirmed.

 The facts adduced at the hearing showed that the city's decision was based on the recommendation of a commissioned study called Urban Fringe Analysis: Horn Lake, Mississippi. The study was prepared by B. T. Page, director of planning and development for O'Fallon, Missouri, who testified for the city. The study focused on three adjacent areas for possible annexation, and it suggested that area #2, the area including Churchwood and Church Road Estates, presented the most favorable choice.

 The area, referred to throughout the hearing as Study Area #2, had a population of 450 based on the 1980 census. The City of Horn Lake had a population of 4,326 based on the same census. However, Study Area #2 had an assessed property value of $8 million in 1980. The city's total assessed property value at the time of the hearing was about $12 million. It was stipulated that all but a handful of residents in the area opposed annexation.

 I.

 WAS THE COURT'S FINDINGS OF FACT SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL CREDIBLE EVIDENCE?

 When a chancellor is presented with a petition to alter municipal boundaries, the question he is obligated to answer is whether that alteration is reasonable. Western Line ...


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