Municipal Appeals — Time For Filing

The Mississippi Supreme Court recently revisited some of the procedural requirements for appealing municipal ordinances in the case of Pemberton Properties, LLC, et al, vs. The Mayor and Board of Alderman of Pearl, Mississippi,  In this case, the owners of several apartment complexes were unhappy with an ordinance that the City of Pearl had adopted. The property owners elected to appeal the ordinance by filing a bill of exceptions. The law in Mississippi has long been that a person wishing to challenge a city’s decision through a bill of exceptions must do so within 10 days after the decision was made. However, the property owners in the Pemberton case mistakenly thought that the 10 days did not start running until the ordinance actually went into effect (which was more than 10 days after it was adopted). Because of this mistake, the dismissal of the property owners’ appeal was affirmed by the Mississippi Supreme Court. As a result, the property owners may have been left without any remedy. You have a number of procedural options and remedies available when it comes to challenging the legality of a municipal ordinance or action. However, this case once again illustrates the importance of finding a lawyer with significant local government law experience if you are going to successfully challenge a city’s actions. For more information on our local government law practice, click...

IS CONTRACT ZONING PERMISSIBLE?

We recently received two unrelated calls from developers concerning a local municipality’s attempts to condition the passing of a rezoning rezoning request on the developer first complying with a number of expensive design modifications. The obvious concern for the developers was whether complying with the request created enforceable rights against the city. This answer to this question turns on whether Mississippi recognizes  “contract zoning.”  The phrase “contract zoning” refers to an agreement between the property owner and the local zoning authority where the property owner agrees to certain conditions in return for an enforceable promise that the rezoning will pass.  Some states stringently prohibit contract zoning while others recognize that contact zoning is an effective land use planning device in certain situations. We are not aware of any Mississippi case where contract zoning was specifically prohibited. However, the Mississippi Supreme Court has drawn a distinction between “contract zoning” and “conditional zoning.” As explained by the Mississippi Supreme Court, “conditional zoning” describes the situation where a municipality goes ahead and rezones the property on the condition that the landowner perform certain acts simultaneously with or after the rezoning. see Old Canton Hills Homeowners Ass’n v. Mayor & City Council of City of Jackson, 749 So. 2d 54, 60 (Miss. 1999)(holding that contingent zoning was both legal and beneficial in certain situations). The difference between conditional zoning and contract zoning is that with conditional zoning there is not an enforceable promise. Instead, performance by both sides is simply a matter of trust. In response to a similar question submitted to the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office involving a conditional subdivision approval, the...