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IN THE MATTER OF THE EXTENSION OF THE BOUNDARIES OF THE CITY OF JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI CITY OF JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI v. CITY OF RIDGELAND

MAY 31, 1989

IN THE MATTER OF THE EXTENSION OF THE BOUNDARIES OF THE CITY OF JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI CITY OF JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI
v.
CITY OF RIDGELAND, MISSISSIPPI AND CITY OF MADISON, MISSISSIPPI



EN BANC

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

This is not an ordinary annexation case. Much more is at stake than whether a large municipality may annex 4.92 square miles along its northern border. Rather, we must decide whether Mississippi's largest and capital city, already largely land-locked by a plethora of bedroom communities, will have another nail driven in the coffin which, if closed, will doom it to the fate already experienced by so many central cities around the nation. It is patently unreasonable that this should occur.

 II.

 On November 13, 1984, the City Council of the City of Jackson, Mississippi, enacted an Ordinance for the annexation of 4.92 square miles along its current northern border. The area to be annexed lies in the southernmost part of Madison County immediately north of County Line Road, which separates Hinds and Madison Counties. The area embraces the intersection of Highways I-55 and I-220 and lands to the west thereof.

 The area is largely undeveloped. Some thirteen commercial establishments occupy approximately 54.7 acres, while two small churches take up three acres and a lodge fills another acre. In the southeast corner of the annexation area lies Tougaloo College's 472 acres, only 86 of which are presently utilized as campus. The evidence before us reflects 65 residences in the area, exclusive of the college. Four hundred seventy-two acres have been developed and are in use, out of a total of 3,149. If approved, the annexation would increase Jackson's land area by 4.7 percent, its population by 795 or 0.6 percent.

 There is a larger picture. Jackson's growth to the northeast is limited by the abutting City of Ridgeland, Mississippi. See City of Jackson v. City of Ridgeland, 388 So. 2d 152 (Miss. 1980) (in which Jackson unsuccessfully opposed Ridgeland's efforts to expand its corporate limits). To the

 east and southeast are Flowood and Pearl and Richland which in recent years have vigorously resisted Jackson's expansion. See In Re Incorporation of the City of Pearl, 279 So. 2d 590 (Miss. 1973); City of Jackson v. Town of Flowood, 331 So. 2d 909 (Miss. 1976). More significant to the east is the western boundary of Rankin County, a legal barrier erected by the Mississippi Legislature. Miss. Code Ann. 61-9-5 (1972) (unanimous consent of Rankin County Board of Supervisors required before Jackson may annex territory in Rankin County). Southerly growth is as well proscribed in substantial part by Rankin County and the Pearl River. To the west is Clinton whose aggressive annexation policy in recent years has led to its sharing with Jackson a common boundary. See In Re Extension of Boundaries of City of Clinton, 450 So. 2d 85 (Miss. 1984).

 While not quite so clogged that infarction is imminent, the arteries potentially carrying blood to Jackson's heart have for all practical purposes been reduced to two: the north and northwest, and to the southwest, west of Highway I-55. At stake today are some 4.3 miles of Jackson's northern boundary, the easternmost 4.3 miles not locked in by Ridgeland's southern boundary. If denied the annexation at issue, and if the area becomes a part of another municipality, Jackson's northwest artery will be constricted to a narrow corridor along Highway 49.

 We are told by reference to the traditional criteria for annexation that Jackson's case is weak. The point lacks punch as one and all know, as surely as the sun will rise in the morning, the lands at issue will soon become a part of some municipality. Within our actual and judicial knowledge a considerable effort has been and is being expended to incorporate the area into the City of Ridgeland, albeit those efforts have been unsuccessful to date. See In Re Inclusion Into the City of Ridgeland, Mississippi, 494 So. 2d 348 (Miss. 1986). So seen, the arguments that there is no need for municipal planning and services in the area or that the residents desire to continue pastoral lives as country folk appear quite disingenuous.

 Notwithstanding, the Chancery Court of Madison County credited objections by the City of Ridgeland, the City of Madison, as well as several area residents and landowners, *fn1 and denied annexation. In an opinion released August 12, 1986, the Court "concluded that the annexation proposed is not reasonable and should be denied."

 The City of Jackson now appeals.

 III.

 A preliminary word is in order regarding, first, the scope of judicial review of an annexation ordinance and, second, the scope of appellate review of a Chancery Court's finding of unreasonableness.

 Annexation is a legislative affair. The judicial function is limited to the question whether the annexation is reasonable. City of Jackson v. Town of Flowood, 331 So. 2d 909, 911 (Miss. 1976); Ritchie v. City of Brookhaven, 217 Miss. 860, 870-73, 878, 65 So. 2d 436, 439-40, 833 (1953).

 That question is presented first to the Chancery Court, Miss. Code Ann. 21-1-33 (1972), and invokes the interests both of the municipality seeking annexation, the owners of property and other inhabitants of the area sought to be annexed, and, as well, others who may be affected. See City of Greenville v. Farmers. Inc., 513 So. 2d 932, 941 (Miss. 1987); Western Line Consolidated School District v. City of Greenville, 465 So. 2d 1057 (Miss. 1985). The Chancery Court has the authority to confirm the entire annexation, or such part thereof, as may be found reasonable. Here the Court found the proposed annexation unreasonable in its entirety. *fn2

 Where a finding of (un)reasonableness is challenged on appeal, we conduct no plenary review. We may reverse where - and only where - the Chancery Court's finding of ultimate fact that the annexation was (un)reasonable is manifestly wrong or without the support of substantial, credible evidence. McElhaney v. City of Horn Lake, 501 So. 2d 401, 403 (Miss. 1987); Extension of Boundaries of City of Moss Point v. Sherman, 492 So. 2d 289, 290 (Miss. 1986); Enlargement of Boundaries of Yazoo City v. City of Yazoo City, 452 So. 2d 837, 838 (Miss. 1984); Extension of Boundaries of City of Clinton, 450 So. 2d 85, 89 (Miss. 1984). We may reverse as well where the Chancery Court has employed erroneous legal standards or where we are left with a firm and definite conviction that a mistake has been made.

 To add flesh to the point, our reports include cases where we have reversed, in whole or in part, a Chancery Court's finding on the reasonableness vel non of a proposed annexation. City of Greenville v. Farmers Inc., 513 So. 2d at 941-42; Extension of Boundaries of City of Biloxi, 361 So. 2d 1372 (Miss. 1978). And, we have reversed where the Chancery Court made its reasonableness finding through use of an incorrect legal standard. Western Line Consolidated School District v. City of Greenville, 465 So. 2d 1057, 1060-61 (Miss. 1985); Spears v. City of Oxford, 227 Miss. 801, 87 So. 2d 61 (1956).

 IV.

 A.

 The outcome determinative question of ultimate fact before the Chancery Court is the reasonableness of the proposed annexation. Over the years our case law has developed a number of factors that ought be considered in this context. Before listing them, we emphasize that these factors are but indicia of reasonableness and not separate or distinct tests in and of themselves. Bassett v. Town of Taylorsville, ___ So. 2d ___, ___ (Miss. No. 58533, dec. April 19, 1989) (not yet reported).

 In a series of cases beginning with Dodd v. City of Jackson, 238 Miss. 372, 396-97, 118 So. 2d 319, 330 (1960) down through most recently McElhaney v. City of Horn Lake, 501 So. 2d 401, 403-04 (Miss. 1987) and City of Greenville v. Farmers. Inc., 513 So. 2d 932, 941 (Miss. 1987), we have recognized at least eight indicia of reasonableness. These include (1) the municipality's need for expansion, (2) whether the area sought to be annexed is reasonably within a path of growth of the city, (3) the potential health hazards from sewage and waste disposal in the annexed areas, (4) the municipality's financial ability to make the improvements and furnish municipal services promised, (5) the need for zoning and overall planning in the area, (6) the need for municipal services in the area sought to be annexed, (7) whether there are natural barriers between the city and the proposed annexation area, and (8) the past performance and time element involved in the city's provision of services to its present residents.

 Other judicially recognized indicia of reasonableness include (9) the impact (economic or otherwise) of the annexation upon those who live in or own property in the area proposed for annexation, Western Line, 465 So. 2d at 1059; (10) the impact of the annexation upon the voting strength of protected minority groups, Enlargement of Boundaries of Yazoo City, 452 So. 2d at 842-43; (11) whether the property owners and other inhabitants of the areas sought to be annexed have in the past, and for the foreseeable future unless annexed will, because of their reasonable proximity to the corporate limits of the municipality, enjoy the (economic and social) benefits of proximity to the municipality without paying their fair share of taxes, Texas Gas Transmission Corp. v. City of Greenville, 242 So. 2d 686, 689 (Miss. 1971); Forbes v. Mayor & Board of Aldermen of City of Meridian, 86 Miss. 243, 38 So. 676 (1905); and (12) any other factors that may suggest reasonableness vel non. Bassett v. Town of Taylorsville,

 ___ So. 2d ___, ___ (Miss. No. 58533, dec. April 19, 1989) (not yet reported).

 In the end, the Chancery Court is charged to determine whether under the totality of the circumstances the annexation (or any part thereof) is reasonable, having due deference to the interests of the municipality and, as well, the interests of the parties ...


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