Pearl River Lake Estates developer sends letter property owner calls “misleading”

Published 3:49 pm Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Owners of property in the Pearl River Lake Estates subdivision received letters recently from a local company trying to purchase their property.

The letters sent by G9, LLC stated that the company recently purchased over 800 lots within the subdivision from the State of Mississippi for unpaid property tax. The letter stated the lots were purchased by the company for the amount of tax owed – an average of $286.32 per lot.

The letters also stated that the Mississippi State Health Department will not issue building permits with septic tanks for lots smaller than one acre, and that in 60 days the county will assess “the fees for the cost of the road construction, water installation, and other utility construction, which will be approximately $6,813.27 per lot.”

The letter states G9 is “willing to make a one-time offer of $500.00 net to the lot owner. This means we will pay all unpaid property tax, attorney fees, and closing cost associated with the sale.”

However, some of the information contained in the letter may be misleading.

First of all, there is no regulation from the state health department regarding the size of lots that can be permitted for septic tanks, said Betty Switzer, who works for the regional office of the health department in Biloxi. Switzer says the regulations may vary within the cities and counties, but there is no statewide regulation.

Nor is it a county regulation, says County Health Department Manager Mike Rester. Rester says the county health department makes septic determinations based on each application and lot size.

“There is not a minimum lot size,” said Rester. Rester said the mention of lots smaller than one acre “could have been determined for a particular lot, but it’s not a general regulation.”

Brooks Wallace of Dungan Engineering, which is the engineering firm for the Pearl River County Utility Authority, said that utility authority regulations state that to build on a lot that is smaller than one acre, an owner would need to have an engineer design the septic system, but that it could be possible to build on that lot.

Also, septic systems that were in place prior to the establishment of the utility authority are not affected by its regulations.

County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin says the county cannot assess fees such as those described in the letter.

“We can’t assess fees like that. We assess taxes,” said Lumpkin in a phone interview.

Lumpkin said ad valorem and other taxes are used to pay for road construction costs to the county, and the county has never had the ability to assess fees such as those implied in the letter from G9. Taxes are levied equally throughout the county by property value and not targeted to certain areas or developments.

When contacted for comment, Mark Gibson, president of G9, LLC, said he received his information and the fee amount in the letter from someone with the county, but would not name his source. He would not comment otherwise about the letter.

Wallace said the utility authority had spoken with Gibson about the subdivision, but that no specific amounts were ever discussed.

“I have no idea how they came up with that number,” Wallace said.

If G9, LLC, were to pay for water and sewer to be installed in the subdivision and an existing property owner wanted to hook into that water and sewer line, that owner would be responsible for their share of the installation costs, Wallace said. However, those costs would be included in the connection fee when the owner connected to the system. If the owner did not connect to the system, there would be no fee to be paid, he said.

Also, the fees would only be for water and sewer hookups, and not for road construction like the letter said, said Wallace.

Ann Menesses, who owns property in Pearl River Lake Estates, contacted the Pearl Rirver County board of supervisors when she received her letter, because she says she pays her taxes every year on the property, and didn’t understand why she was going to be assessed even more fees.

“I thought the letter was kind of bullying,” Menesses said. “He (G9) said the county would assess those fees, and they don’t. To me, that’s lying.”

Menesses says her lot is not a big lot, but she and her husband thought it would be a good investment when they bought it, and don’t want to sell it for $500.

“They’re wanting us to give it to them,” Menesses said.

All the information in the letter that she considers misleading makes Menesses not trust anything the letter says.

“The letter says they’re going to use those lots for mobile homes for lower income families. All we have is what they say is their intent. We don’t really know what they’re going to do with those lots,” Menesses said.