The Mississippi Court of Appeals on Tuesday affirmed a decision in an eminent domain case initially ruled on last year that will see a state agency take the condemned property owned by Starkville Lodging.

According to court filings, the Mississippi Transportation Commission first initiated an eminent domain proceeding in the Special Court of Eminent Domain of Oktibbeha County on Dec. 17, 2017, with the owners of Starkville Lodging subsequently filing a motion to dismiss.

Facts presented in the case state that the Mississippi Department of Transportation [MDOT] deeded a parcel of land it no longer needed to Starkville Lodging, with a 2.45-acre parcel comprising the disputed property.

The city of Starkville on Dec. 1, 2015, authorized the sale of approximately 20.34 cars of city-owned property previously being used by the city as a sewage lagoon that was being phased out of service.

This property, according to filings, is located to the southwest of the disputed tract of Starkville Lodging’s property.

While a developer from Hattiesburg entered into a contract for the sale and purchase of the lagoon property, one of the conditions was to allow the state access to the property for the intended used of the buyer, also stating the developer could extend the closing if needed to ensure access was granted.

Access, however, would become a problem, the developer, Dr. Bennett York, said.

York claimed, in all, approximately six contract extensions were made for “the purpose of [the eminent domain] proceeding being decided in favor of MDOT and providing [Dr. York] access to the abandoned sewage lagoon.”

Starkville Lodging would go on to claim the city of Starkville and the Transportation Commission effected a scheme or workaround to provide York with access to the sewage lagoon through eminent domain, which constitutes an abuse of the Transportation Commission’s statutorily-granted powers to condemn private property for private use.

On Tuesday, however, the court ultimately ruled in favor of the Transportation Commission by affirming the decision of the lower court.

For more on this story, read Wednesday's Starkville Daily News.

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