Hattiesburg leaders oppose proposed bill to change how city grow - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Hattiesburg leaders oppose proposed bill to change how city grows

Annexation bill could change how Hattiesburg grows./WDAM Annexation bill could change how Hattiesburg grows./WDAM

Hattiesburg city leaders oppose a state Senate bill that would change how Mississippi cities grow.

Senate Bill 2198 was passed by the Senate Thursday. It requires municipalities to turn over rights to "zoning, subdivision or alcohol regulations to the board of supervisors of the county in which the territory to be annexed is located if a certain number of people residing in the territory are not included in the proposed annexation." 

"You have property with no authority," Mayor johnny DuPree said. "In order to be the economic engine for the Pine Belt, you need to be able to talk to people when they want to come and tell them things that you can and cannot do. In this instance, you wouldn't be able to do anything if you're not able to get 50 percent of the people in. It's anti-business. Anti-annexation is anti-business."

City Council President Kim Bradley said he wants Hattiesburg to include residents as it expands, he does not think Mississippi lawmakers should have a hand in deciding how cities grow.

"For the legislature to pass a bill that tells a city how it has to incorporate or how it has to annex and grow, I believe is wrong," Bradley said. "It's misgiven."

DuPree also said the legislation targets Hattiesburg.

"As I read it, it talks about actually when a city is in two counties," DuPree said. "So it, it narrowly defines that to almost Hattiesburg. There's not many cities in the state of Mississippi that are in two counties. If your city lies within one county, it doesn't affect you. It only affects those that are within two counties, which is Hattiesburg."

The bill reads:

"When any municipality with boundaries that lie within two (2) counties desires to enlarge its boundaries by adding adjacent unincorporated territory  the governing authorities of the municipality shall pass, in addition to the requirements provided in subsection (1), an ordinance: (a) Certifying that more than fifty percent of the people who reside in the unincorporated area of the census block within the territory proposed to be annexed shall be included in the proposed annexation; or (b) Certifying that upon approval of the annexation, the municipality shall cede any authority to provide zoning, 44 subdivision and alcohol regulation to the board of supervisors of the county in which the territory is located, if fifty percent or fewer people who reside in the unincorporated area of the census block within such territory is not included in the proposed annexation. (3) For the purposes of this section, "census block" refers to certain geographic areas as designated by the most recent decennial United States Census preceding any annexation under this section."

Polk said he presented the bill to give a voice to residents who have been left of annexation plans, but DuPree and Bradley said the city has included residents in annexation discussions.

"I think that if you talk to anyone who was involved in the last annexation we had down at 98, we went overboard to make sure that people had a say so," DuPree said.

Bradley said, "We took in Newpointe shopping center, there were 10 people that were affected when we took that in, and we had to have a vote for 10 people to go vote if they wanted to have alcohol or not. Plain and simple. We'll do that again."

DuPree said, "This is a narrowly defined piece of legislation that on the face of it looks like it's just centered, targeted at Hattiesburg to be honest with you. There are not many cities that are situated within two counties. I think it's anti-business. I think it's anti-growth. It puts people in a position, who moved into an unincorporated area for a reason, and they didn't move to unincorporated areas to be annexed. That's not our goal." 

Senate Bill 2198's companion bill, House Bill 1224, died in committee Tuesday. The Senate bill was sent to the House on Friday, and has to pass there before it could become a law.

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