Judge’s ruling means fight to continue over marina site

BAY ST. LOUIS — The Murphy family’s legal battle over the future the marina site in Bay St. Louis will continue now that Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s motion to dismiss has been denied.

Hancock County Circuit Judge Lisa P. Dodson ruled the secretary of state did not properly support the motion to dismiss the Murphys’ case with documentation.

With no survey map, the state could not maintain its argument and the court could not determine the property in dispute, she said.

In April, the Murphy family filed an inverse condemnation suit against Hosemann and the City of Bay St. Louis over property between the seawall and tide line, which was formerly the site of Dan B.’s Restaurant and Bar.

The Murphys claim the property has been unjustly seized by and seek compensation. The secretary of state’s office claims that the 1994 Tidelands Act defined all land on the shore side of a seawall as public trust.

By statute, property owners affected by the act were given three years to file a legal challenge.

Melissa Winfield, attorney for the Secretary of State, argued the case was a boundary dispute.

The Murphy family says their property ends at the water line and the secretary of state says it ends at the toe of the sea wall, she said.

Winfield presented a series of documents showing that the Murphy family objected to the property boundary, but had never filed a legal challenge before the statute of limitations expired in 1997.

“Now, 15 years later, they want it moved,” she said.

Paul Scott, attorney for the Murphy family, said a legal challenge was never filed, because the map shows the Murphys’ property line extending past the seawall to the tide line. He argued that interpretation of the Tidelands map was the issue.

“Does the map do what the secretary of state believes it does?” he asked.

Scott also said statute requires the secretary of state to notify property owners by certified mail when they are not in compliance with the Tidelands map, he said. The owners are given three years to respond from receipt of notice. The Murphy family was never notified that their land was in violation of the Tidelands map, Scott said.

“The statute of limitations hasn’t started to this day,” he said.

After a hearing of about 30 minutes, Dodson asked Winfield for survey maps and certified documentation to back up the state’s claims. When they were not produced, Dodson ruled in favor of the Murphy family and denied the state’s motion to dismiss.

“Pick a trial date, folks, and pick it soon,” she said.

After the hearing, Ken Murphy said the judge made the right decision.

“The good thing is we’re moving forward. The bad thing is it’ll take another year to get it resolved,” he said.

Initially, the Murphys wanted to have their property restored to its original condition, but, with the marina access ramp complete, the family now wants compensation, he said. The exact amount will be determined by a jury, he said.

“We’re guessing (the case) is going to take a year,” Murphy said. “There’s nothing for us to do at this point. It’s all in the lawyers’ hands.”

The secretary of state and Bay St. Louis now have 30 days to answer the Murphys’ original complaint.

Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame said the case should not affect the marina project and that the city has been operating in good faith.

A similar lawsuit was filed earlier this year by Scott Favre Public Adjuster, LLC. The secretary of state has also filed a motion to dismiss that case. A hearing is scheduled later this year.

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