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CITY OF GULFPORT, MISSISSIPPI, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION v. WRAY W. ANDERSON

SEPTEMBER 27, 1989

CITY OF GULFPORT, MISSISSIPPI, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION
v.
WRAY W. ANDERSON



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, C.J.; ROBERTSON AND PITTMAN, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

In this inverse condemnation action landowner claims the city's alteration of a main thoroughfare has reduced the value of his property. A major part of landowner's perceived loss is the city's withdrawal of his permissive use of a part of its right-of-way, and the pinch the landowner feels because his store building fronts on the right-of-way line.

 Because landowner's valuation evidence, the Circuit Court's instructions, and ultimately the jury's verdict took no account

 of landowner's imprudence in the location of his store building on his lot, we reverse and remand for a new trial.

 II.

 In 1963 Wray W. Anderson purchased what was then a grocery store on the southeast corner of the intersection of Courthouse Road and Railroad Street in the Mississippi City community in Harrison County. In 1966 he moved the family hardware business from downtown Gulfport to this property. In 1968 Gulfport annexed the area. Anderson and his family operated Anderson Hardware there until some time in 1987 when the business closed. At the time of the purchase, and up until 1985, the street facing the store's front, Courthouse Road, was of the same leveled grade as the" parking lot "of the store. But this parking lot did not belong to Anderson. For years customers stopped off the busy street and parked directly in front of the building, even though this area was a city owned right of way. Built years before Anderson purchased it, the building's west-facing front rested right on the western edge of the property contiguous to the east boundary of the City's street right-of-way. The building overhangs into the airspace above the city's right-of-way.

 Courthouse Road runs north and south, and in March of 1984, Gulfport developed a plan to widen it from 31 to 44 feet. Funded in part with federal money, the project was completed in December of 1985. The L&N Railroad's east-west tracks lie north of the Courthouse Road-Railroad Street intersection. Because of federal guidelines (in particular, visibility requirements for railroad crossings), the City raised and graduated the grade of Courthouse Road, so that at the Anderson property's northwest corner, the road was 2.2 feet above the property's grade, receding gradually to about one foot above the southwestern edge of the Anderson property. More significantly, the City of Gulfport installed a concrete curb that wraps around the northwest corner of the Anderson property. This curb has reduced access to the property to a twenty foot cut, about half of which is on the Anderson property, on the southwestern edge of the property, and the back of the property, its northeastern edge. The twenty foot curb cut allows a car to enter a driveway between the curb and the front of the building, a space which is sufficiently narrow to make navigating a car tight. A fireplug further obstructs vehicular movement.

 Prior to the construction, drainage from the property was provided by a grill in the northwest corner of the property, but most water simply flowed south along the roadway into the Gulf of Mexico. As part of the construction Gulfport installed a catch basin and drain pipe on the property, a system which Anderson claims is inadequate to prevent flooding.

 B.

 Anderson brought this inverse condemnation action in the Circuit Court of Harrison County on September 23, 1985, naming the City of Gulfport as defendant. Anderson sought damages as a result of the road widening, see Miss. Const. Art. 3, 17 (1890), and expenses, Miss. Code Ann. 43-37-9 (1972).

 A jury trial commenced on the 18th of September, 1986. The Circuit Court denied Gulfport's motion for a directed verdict, after which the jury viewed the premises, and returned a verdict for Anderson in the amount of $45,000.00. The Court thereafter denied Gulfport's motion for j.n.o.v. and new trial. In a separate hearing on September 26, 1986, the Circuit Court awarded Anderson $13,782.58 in expenses under Section 43-37-9. The total judgment, $58,782.58, included interest at the rate of 8 percent per annum after September 22, 1986, for the damage award, and October 8, 1986, for the expenses portion.

 III.

 The City of Gulfport has taken title to not so much as an inch of Anderson's property. Today's claim is predicated upon damage qua loss of value Anderson's property is said to have suffered ...


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