Hancock County condo ordinance challenge before Appeals Court

Published 3:40 pm Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A legal challenge to what some have called Hancock County’s condo- friendly zoning ordinance will be argued July 31 before the state Court of Appeals.

The case is among dozens the Appeals Court will hear during the July-August term. The court will not hear oral arguments in the some cases. They will instead rely on attorneys’ briefs to make their decisions.

In March 2006, Circuit Judge Steve Simpson upheld a board of supervisors’ decision to create a “commercial resort” district along a stretch of beach.

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The May 2005 zoning change created the way for construction of new resorts, hotels and condos without height restrictions.

The lawsuit was filed by several members of an anti-condo group, who wanted to prevent the development and who argued local residents had been kept in the dark about the condo projects.

Simpson said the county’s decision was a “valid, legal function of the board.” The judge also said the local planning commission held hearings on the issue to inform residents of the ordinance change.

According to court records, along with four luxury high rises proposed by Paradise Properties Group LLC for an area near Bayou Caddy Fisheries, with heights ranging from 11 to 20 stories, the local planning commission approved six other condo developments, including four 36-story towers and two 20-story towers.

The board of supervisors, Paradise Properties and Kudo Developers of Mississippi were defendants in the case.

In another case, the Appeals Court will hear arguments July 19 in the post-conviction appeal of a Yazoo City man convicted for his role in the murder of former Pickens police chief William Arnold in 2000.

Josh Davis’ conviction was upheld by the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2003. Inmates use post-conviction petitions to argue that they have found new evidence that could win them a new trial.

Davis was 15 when the murder was committed. He was convicted in 2002 in Yazoo County and sentenced to life in prison.

Arnold, 46, was found murdered July 30, 2000, at a fishing and hunting club in eastern Yazoo County. He had been shot in the face with a shotgun.

Davis had claimed the killing occurred in the heat of passion in that Arnold’s alleged sexual advances toward a girl in Davis’ group enraged him. Davis also claimed prosecutors didn’t prove he was involved in the killing or was at the scene.

The Supreme Court said Davis confessed to authorities that he fired shots into the camp cabin where Arnold was sleeping.

The Appeals Court has scheduled arguments for July 18 in Ronnie E. Smith’s appeal of his 2005 conviction in the slaying of his uncle.

Smith was convicted of capital murder in Hinds County and sentenced to life in prison without parole for the May 13, 2002, stabbing death of Hampton Ellis, his 84-year-old uncle.

Prosecutors said Ellis, who was legally blind, was attacked from behind when he was stabbed to death.

Among cases the Appeals Court will decide using briefs are appeals from:

— Keith Norcell Young’s appeal of his 2005 conviction on charges of capital murder and arson for setting a house fire which killed an elderly woman.

The 2003 fire claimed the life of 86-year-old Rosie Lee Davis. Prosecutors said Davis had been strangled and was killed prior to her body being damaged in the fire.

Prosecutors said Young burglarized the woman’s home, setting her house on fire while she was still inside and stole her car.

— Kristopher Peacock’s appeal of his 2005 conviction in Hinds County for murder in the shooting death of Robert “Cliff” Stubbs.

Stubbs was shot to death on a city street in 2003. Peacock was sentenced to life in prison.

According to the court record, Peacock testified he fired six shots at the car Stubbs was driving, but said he did not intend to kill Stubbs.

— Derrick Payne’s appeal of his 2006 conviction in DeSoto County for manslaughter in the kidnapping and murder of an Olive Branch man. Payne was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

According to court records, Reginald Walls, 26, was reported missing in May 2004. His remains were found in March 2005 in Benton County.