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Supreme Court sides with Natchez on zoning dispute

NATCHEZ — The Mississippi Supreme Court sided Thursday with the City of Natchez in a zoning dispute with a housing developer.

The dispute stemmed from the city’s 2008 denial of a request from Dallas-based Roundstone Development LLC to rezone 25 acres for single-family homes. The company planned to build 65 single-family units, stretching from Old Washington Road to Oriole Terrace. Nine acres of the land were zoned single-family residential and the remaining 17 acres open land.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen upheld the planning commission’s denial at a February 2008 meeting. Several residents from neighborhoods around the proposed project spoke out against it at a planning commission hearing and the aldermen meeting.

The Mississippi Court of Appeals then voted 6-2 to uphold an Adams County Circuit Court judgment in favor of the city regarding a zoning dispute between Roundstone company and the city.

The Supreme Court, in Thursday’s 6-2 ruling, says it could find nothing wrong with the city’s decision.

The company claimed it had bought under the impression there would be no problems with developing the housing project.

Judge Forest “Al” Johnson ruled in 2011 in favor of Roundstone in a separate lawsuit against the city in Adams County Circuit Court for breach of contract and misrepresentation.

Michael V. Cory Jr., one of the attorneys representing Roundstone, has said the company first proposed the project to the city in 2006.

Cory has said developers from Roundstone received letters from Natchez Planning and Zoning Department officials, who he said told the company the land was zoned properly. He said the company relied on that information and purchased the land with plans to develop it.

Documents from the company’s case against the city in the Mississippi Court of Appeals include e-mails from former city planners Andrew L. Smith and Dennis E. Story to David Strange of the Neighborhood Development Alliance LLC. The e-mails state that land the proposed housing project would be on was zoned as R-1 single-family residential, and the use of the property for single-family development was permitted under the zoning classification.

The appeals court opinion states the letters were incorrect about the zoning status of the land. It also states the letters are not addressed to Roundstone, and it is unclear the relationship, if any, the company had with the recipients of the letters.

Cory has said the housing development project is dead because the Roundstone lost its tax credit.