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Supreme Court rules in county land dispute

WARREN COUNTY — The Mississippi Supreme Court has upheld a ruling in Warren County that most of Paw Paw Road is private.

The Vicksburg Post reports that the Nov. 10 decision could deal a blow to Warren County’s chances of a favorable verdict in a related federal case involving two groups of landowners.

Warren County Chancellor Vicki Roach Barnes ruled in 2008 that that 0.13 of a mile of the gravel path off Highway 465 is public and the remaining 0.47 of a mile is private. The road is the lone access to separate parcels of hunting property owned by Issaquena and Warren Counties Land Company, LLC, and Paw Paw Island Land Company.

Legal wrangling between the owners over access to the property dates to 2003.

Barnes’ ruling was based on discrepancies between maps adopted in 1989 and the register of roads in 2000. Register entries showed the distances spelled out in the ruling.

IWCLC attorneys had argued that distance only covered from Highway 465 to a locked gate at a tree line past the mainline Mississippi River levee.

The county argued its involvement merely stemmed from trying to enforce flood plain and subdivision ordinances beyond the gate, as required by law. Property records show structures have been built on the island and recently adopted flood maps designate much of northwest Warren County a special flood hazard zone.

The Supreme Court said Barnes’ decision maintains the lone and most current method for creating a public road. The court said the county’s claim that state law effectively took away its ownership of the road without the usual process of declaring it abandoned was baseless.

A 2007 lawsuit filed by IWCLC in U.S. District Court in Jackson seeks $6 million in damages and was on hold pending outcome of the chancery court appeal.

IWCLC contended that county officials intervened in a private land dispute with PPILC to a degree that violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

All five Warren County supervisors from the 2004-2008 term are defendants, as is Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield, then the attorney for the board.

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