Hancock ordinance challenge before Supreme Court

Published 1:24 pm Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Mississippi Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal involving what some have called Hancock County’s condo-friendly zoning ordinance.

The justices agreed to hear from Paradise Properties Group, which wants to build condo towers in the Clermont Harbor area of Hancock County.

In 2006, a judge upheld a board of supervisors’ decision to create a “commercial resort’ district along a stretch of beach.

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The 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.

The state Court of Appeals in 2007 overturned the county zoning decision.

Under Mississippi law, a zoning change requires convincing evidence it’s necessary because of a change in the character of the affected area. The Appeals Court ruled the county’s finding of change in the area was “sparce and conclusory at best, and nonexistent at worst.”

The board of supervisors, Paradise Properties and Kudo Developers of Mississippi appealed. The Supreme Court agreed Thursday to hear the appeal.

According to court records, along with four luxury high rises proposed by Paradise Properties, with heights ranging from 11 to 20 stories, the Hancock County Planning Commission approved six other condo developments, including four 36-story towers and two 20-story towers.

The board of supervisors agreed, and rezoned about 1,000 acres in beach areas, changing zoning from primarily single-family residential to a new designation called resort commercial.