City loses again in court in dispute over mental health clinic

OCEAN SPRINGS — The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled against the city of Ocean Springs in its dispute with a mental health clinic that wanted to locate in the coastal city.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Robert Krebs ruled last December that the city erred in denying a use permit to the Psycamore mental health clinic. The Supreme Court yesterday upheld Krebs’ ruling.

The clinic wanted to locate in an area zoned C-3, or highway commercial area. The company has rented an old house that was converted to an office.

Neighbors had complained that C-4 would be a better zone for the clinic because it specifically allows hospital-related businesses. They were concerned that the clinic would pose a danger to the area and bring down property values.

Clinic managers said they offered an intensive, day program for working clients dealing with stress and other disorders. They said they weren’t a rehab center, didn’t treat the severely mentally ill and wouldn’t have clients overnight.

The Supreme Court dismissed the city’s argument that Psycamore was not a medical or paramedical clinic because it was dissimilar to doctors’ and dentists’ offices, which typically are considered medical clinics.

“But nothing in the city ordinances or the city’s past practice provides notice or even an indication of such a requirement,” wrote Presiding Justice Jess Dickinson.

Dickinson said the court record was clear that the city had approval a similar facility as Psycamore’s in a similarly zoned area.

In 2011, the board of aldermen voted 5-1 to deny Psycamore a certificate of occupancy and a use permit. The clinic claimed the area it wanted to operate in was zoned to allow medical clinics but the city contended it was a largely residential area.

The city also argued that partial hospitalization facilities — which was how Psycamore is described on its web site — are not medical clinics.

Psycamore officials argued that “partial hospitalization” is simply an industry term and that the company operates as a medical clinic.

Dickinson said it was obvious from the evidence that had Psycamore called itself a medical clinic it would have avoided a fight over a certificate of occupancy.

“The city … simply ignored its own definition, past practices, and all of the evidence presented to it by denying Psycamore’s certificate of occupancy,” he said.

Psycamore ultimately opened a clinic in Biloxi, but filed an appeal of the city’s decision in circuit court, which led to Krebs’ ruling.

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