A hearing for a case against the City of Ridgeland took place at the Supreme Court of Mississippi Monday afternoon. Ridgeland residents were in attendance, opposing the construction of a Costco Wholesale store near Highland Colony Parkway.
Members of the Ridgeland Citizens for Responsible Development group argued the rezoning of the property was done illegally, without following proper procedures.
However, attorneys representing the City of Ridgeland said that’s not the case.
“The case before the court today is a text amendment to a zoning ordinance, not an individualized rezoning that’s going to be specific to a piece of property,” said Attorney John Scanlon.
Scanlon said that text amendment was already in place in the city’s comprehensive plan.
Ridgeland resident Dr. Robert Penny was one of many who showed up to Monday’s hearing in opposition to the project and said he’s for growth and advancement in the city but feels the Costco project could hurt the value of homes in the area.
“What’s the point of having zoning laws if you’re going to make exceptions for every commercial interest that comes along?” said Penny. There were a lot of arguments that went on but I think it’s a basic argument that can be made. Of course, anyone today should be willing to enjoy progress but this takes us back to when there were no laws.”
Penny said he hopes this case ends with the city choosing to enforce the zoning laws.
“It didn’t seem like this was all open and above board like we’d like to see our city council operate,” added Penny. “No matter how they argue it, it just seems like they were not really seeking public approval for it all.”
Attorney Sheldon Alston said Ridgeland city leaders had been in contact with Costco about opening up a store in the city but did not publicly announce it.
“Ridgeland was very careful not to let it go public,” Alston said. “We covered this in our brief. They made sure it stayed secret, they knew it would be kind of a public outcry, maybe pluses and minuses, they wanted to keep it quiet. Fine, that’s not why we’re here but that’s how this kind of rolled along. It rolls around for a while and they even call it Santa Clause. It’s project Santa Clause because they don’t want someone to hear them talking about talking to Costco.”
Cy Rosenblatt, a Ridgeland resident, said he worked in Government in the past and understands there are times when announcements or developments aren’t immediately announced because a city may be competing with others for a new development, but many of the residents opposed to the construction feel there was some secrecy involved in how the City of Ridgeland approved the Costco project.
“Government, in my opinion, is designed to protect the interests of citizens,” added Rosenblatt.
“Government doesn’t exist to control everything that happens but Government exists to make society better and reflect the needs of the society and in this particular area where the Costco is going, there have been residential developments that have gone in and these residential developments went in with the belief that this area would remain pretty much constant in terms of the type of development that would go in.”
Rosenblatt said he hoped the Supreme Court ruling will result in the lower court ruling being overturned.
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