LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The city of Hattiesburg officially filed its annexation petition in Forrest and Lamar County Chancery Courts Monday.
"The city did file their annexation in chancery court, which was not a surprise to the board of supervisors," said Jody Waits, Lamar County administrator. "They stand opposed as they were all along, and they'll take all steps they can to oppose the annexation."
John Scanlon, Hattiesburg's annexation attorney, said the city always planned to file the petition in both Lamar and Forrest County chancery courts.
"We plan to seek consolidation of the two actions into one single court," Scanlon said.
Waits said the city of Petal will also have a say because of its close proximity to the land Hattiesburg wants to annex.
"Because they're within three miles of Petal, Petal is also named as a party to it, so they would have a right to answer to the lands in Forrest County if they wanted to," Waits said.
Waits said the city's annexation plans have spurred calls to the board of supervisors from residents and businesses who do not want to live and work in Hattiesburg.
"All the residents over there on Windlass Drive have stepped forward and come before the board and said they don't want to be in the City of Hattiesburg," he said. "They'll be filing their own petitions and signing petitions to stay out of it, so they have a voice in it. The board is open to any businesses that don't want to be within the annexed area. They certainly should reach out to the board of supervisors, and they'll fight on their behalf. They've even heard from some people who are currently in annexed areas of the city who want to be de-annexed, so that'll have to be dealt with as well. So it's opened the door for everybody to have a voice in what's going on."
Waits also said the city's current plan does not include enough residents in Lamar County for the city to be able to control zoning.
"We put a census block data on top of the map that they proposed, and in order to gain control of the zoning, they would have to take 50 percent of the residents within each of those census blocks," Waits said. "That would then entail citizens in all those subdivisions along 98. Lake Serene, both North and South, Woodstone, Canebrake, Bridgefield, all of those touch that proposed annexation. So they haven't asked for any rooftops in there. If they wanted zoning, they'd have to come back and add at least half of those citizens within all of those subdivisions.I don't believe they would do that, but they would have to if they wanted the zoning."
Waits said the county's opposition is based on ensuring residents have a say in the development around their homes.
"The city council has taken an approach of strip annexing, which doesn't give any of those citizens a voice in what goes on in their front door," he said. "That's the primary reason the board of supervisors stand opposed. There are no services that they're offering, that I'm aware of, that can't be taken care of or are already taken care of by the county currently. It's not the best thing for the citizens of Lamar County, and the board wants the best thing for the citizens of Lamar County."
To view the annexation petition in Forrest Co., click here.