Beacon Street project

An artist's rendering of the Beacon Street project.

City to utilize eminent domain to acquire land at Burger King

One legal battle is just getting started for the City of Laurel and another is just about to come to an end.

The City Council was notified that the plaintiffs in the Pendorff annexation case have appealed the judge’s ruling, which could delay the process of that community becoming part of the city for up to five years.

In a separate case, the council unanimously approved the use of eminent domain to acquire the land that’s necessary to complete the Beacon Street Improvements Project.

LH Holdings I, LLC was offered $16,095 for a few feet of its parking lot that borders what is now Leontyne Price Boulevard, “but it assumed they are demanding more,” according to the complaint filed by the city. The business that is on that property is Burger King. The right-of-way that is necessary for the construction of the project has to be acquired by Dec. 31, which is when the city’s contract is scheduled to expire, according to the complaint.

“This is the last parcel of land we need,” Mayor Johnny Magee told the council, “and we’re having to go the eminent domain route again.”

Several other parcels of land along the roadway had to be acquired by eminent domain. The $4.5 million project has been in the planning stages for more than four years. The improvements will put a median down the middle of Leontyne Price Boulevard — which was known as Beacon Street when the Mississippi Department of Transportation approved a grant for the project.

The plan calls for other improvements to make a more visually appealing “gateway” from Interstate 59 into downtown Laurel. The improvement are expected to spur more investment and economic development along the route. The city is having to pay $900,000 of the cost and the rest is coming from federal grant money that is being provided through MDOT.

Work can begin as soon as the city secures the title to all of the land that is needed for the project, Magee said.

In the other legal case, it was no surprise that the Pendorff Community Association filed an appeal in Jones County Chancery Court of special judge James Bell’s decision to award almost 2 square miles of the community along Highway 11 South to the city.

It could take up to two years to get a decision from the state Supreme Court, Magee said. The PCA asked that the judge’s ruling be overturned, but that request was denied. PCA representatives also asked that language be added to the judge’s order to require all city services to be available to residents and businesses within five years of the annexation taking place, and that request was granted, City Attorney D.D. Bassi said.

The PCA has been granted a stay while the matter is under appeal, so the Pendorff Community will avoid having to pay city taxes — and delay getting full city services — during that time period.

Water and sewer upgrades in Pendorff are expected to cost the city $16.5 million, plus the community will be under city police and fire protection, according to the annexation plan that was approved by the judge. The city’s population would grow by 800 residents and generate an estimated $1.2 million per year in new taxes. New city residents would not have pay city school taxes and would be allowed to continue sending their children to county schools, according to the plan.

In other matters, the council — minus Councilmen Jason Capers and Tony Wheat — unanimously approved:

• Establishing a district that would enable the utilization of tax exemptions to encourage historic preservation and economic revitalization by granting ad valorem tax exemptions in areas of the city where there is “an existing inventory of buildings of historic and cultural significance” that are “in need of such revitalization.” A map of the Central Business District and Historic Preservation District and details of the exemptions are available at City Hall;

• Tax exemptions for Marcella Investment Group LLC — which includes Laurel Mercantile and Pearl’s — and Sweet Somethings bakery, all in downtown;

• Travel for Parks and Recreation Director Elvin Ulmer for a conference in Phoenix on Jan. 21-26, LPD training officers David Grasha and William Sparrow for taser instructing training in Mobile, Ala., Dec. 13, and for elected officials and clerks to Jackson Jan. 6-10 for the Miss. Municipal League’s Mid-Winter Conference;

• A $2,473.75 donation to the Laurel Police Department from Hometown Publishing;

• A request from the LPD to accept non-perishable food  and cash donations for the annual “Fill-A-Truck” food drive.

A public hearing date of Dec. 18 was set for the owners of the following properties that have been deemed by the Inspection Department as unclean and a menace to the public health:

• 2104 Palmer Ave., Donelle Thornton;

• 1508 George St., Franklin Jones;

• 1523 Airprot Dr., Joe Morgan;

• 1502 George St., Rachel Jones;

• 3804 Yale Ave., Innomax Home Solutions LLC;

• Overgrown property north of 1021 North 9th Ave., Plum Hill Properties, LLC;

• 518 Monroe St., Stratford Investments LLC;

• 1327 West 6th St., David Kux;

• 830 North 5th Ave., Melissa Hankins in care of Diane Blackwell.

The public hearing date for the owners of the following unclean properties was set for Dec. 4:

• 51 Oakcrest Dr., Anita and Orbie Wright Sr.;

• 1728 Gen. Pershing St., Lucious Newell;

• Overgrown property at Pineview and Walnut Dr., Matthew Windham;

• 324 Hillcrest Dr., Doris Biglane;

• 716 Poplar Dr., Plumb Hill Properties;

• 706 Rose Ave., Grover McCann;

• 714 Rose St., Anthony Page;

• 712 Polar Dr., Joe and Bessie Jones;

• 1952 Gladiolus Dr., Jerry Coleman;

• 1153 Capitol St., Pearline Anderson;

• 11 Marie Dr., Helen Pugh;

• 1350 West Dr., Van Miller;

• Overgrown property west of south of 2110 Palmer Ave., Jimmie Wade;

• 1507 Airport Dr., Helen Pugh;

• Overgrown lot on East 16th Street, Judy Beach;

• 1623 Miss. Ave., Admork Corp.;

• 205 East ate St., Joann Wimberly;

• Overgrown lot on East 18th Street, Pace Property Investments;

• 911 North Joe Wheeler Ave., Lynx Investments, LLC;

The council approved billing property owners for the city’s cost of cleaning of property at:

• 416 North Pine Street, Kale Farms LLC;

• 2019 North 3rd Ave., Hazel Smith;

• 1137 Spriggs St., John Reed.

Magee reported to the council that a recent auction sold 19 city properties that had been abandoned.

“That’s 19 properties back on the tax rolls,” he said.

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