Developer tries to clear information in letter

Published 10:19 pm Saturday, June 23, 2007

Mark Gibson met with Mississippi State Health Department officials on Wednesday, he said in an effort to clear up information that some people found misleading in a letter concerning the Pearl River Lake Estates Subdivision.
Pearl River County Health Department Director Mike Rester and Environmental Health Program Specialist Jim Weston, for the state Dept. of Health, met with Gibson, Picayune real estate broker Larry Pearson, and Dwayne Peterson, a former owner of property within the Pearl River Lake Estates Subdivision, at the subdivision.
Gibson said the purpose for meeting at the property was to use it as an example to determine whether or not lots within the subdivision would be able to support an individual septic system within guidelines set by the health department.
Gibson asked Weston and Rester whether or not the lot in question would be capable of supporting a septic system. Weston said that for the specific lot in question, the health department would require an engineering opinion.
“We would recommend them to an engineer,” said Weston. “We would take applications, and it would depend on the soil conditions. Each lot would stand on its own merit.”
Weston said he believed that most of the lots within the subdivision more than likely would not qualify for septic systems under current regulations, but he said that some of the 60-foot by 120-foot lots probably would have the correct soil content to support an individual septic system.
When pressed by Gibson to be more specific, Weston said that if a lot contained a failed septic system, the owner of that lot would be required to tie in to a public sewer system, if it was provided.
Gibson also attempted to clear up the claim in the letter that the county would assess over $6,800 in fees for the “cost of the road construction, water installation, and other utility construction.”
Gibson said the county told him that if he repaired the roads within the subdivision, the county would assess ad valorem taxes in order to repay him for the construction of the roads, and the utility authority will charge a remaining fee for access to the sewer system once it is installed. However, Gibson continued to refuse to name the specific source of his information.
When questioned, Gibson acknowledged that if a property owner does not apply for a building permit to build on their lot, they would not be charged the additional fees.
Gibson also provided a copy of the Mississippi state statute that he says gives the county the authority to levy the taxes to repay expenses he incurs.
According to the Mississippi Code of 1972, Section 19-5-191, “Funds for debt service may be provided by charges assessed against the property abutting upon the sewer, or abutting upon the railroad and/or utility right-of-way, street, road, highway, easement or alley in which such sewer mains or water mains are installed according to the frontage thereof.”
County Administrator Adrian Lumpkin said that while the statute gives the county the authority to assess the taxes, it does not say the county has to do so.
“The board of supervisors can create a Public Improvement District, or PID, to levy taxes to pay for improvements, but that’s strictly at the discretion of the supervisors,” Lumpkin said. “It would have to have the approval of the board of supervisors. It’s not mandated that they have to do it.”
At press time, a request to Jan Schaefer, Public Information Officer for the Office of the Attorney General for Mississippi, for past opinions on similar issues had not been answered. In an e-mail from Schaefer, she stated the attorney general’s office could not issue an opinion on this particular situation without a request from the board of supervisors.
In a letter to the Item, Gibson states, “…we due (sic) own 72% of the lots and 100 % of all of the roads, so with that we made a generous one time offer to the other property owners before we started moving forward and generating cost of engineering, roads, water and sewer construction which according to State Statue (sic) can be done. To date we have had a tremendous response to our letter with people thanking us for taking the property off their hands where they too would not lose it for taxes.”
The “generous offer” Gibson mentions is to purchase lots from current owners for $500 per lot.
Jerry Grubbs, an appraiser with the Pearl River County Tax Collector’s Office, said Gibson’s price is rather low, compared to the appraised value of the property.
The average appraised value of a 60-foot by 120-foot lot in the subdivision is about $1,000, Grubbs said.
Gibson claims, however, that he is just trying to do the right thing and make a bad situation better for low to moderate income families.
“They wanna beat up on me because I’m gonna put mobile homes in here. … I know what it is to do without. I’m just wanting to give back to where I come from,” Gibson said. “Why should I refuse my peers a place to live because a person in a $300,000 house doesn’t want that?”

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