Hattiesburg drops annexation attempt for convenience store

By HASKEL BURNS,

After more than four years of discussions regarding the annexation of a Lamar County convenience store/gas station, Hattiesburg City Council members have decided to withdraw the effort and allow the store to remain in the county.

City Attorney Randy Pope said after reviewing the matter, officials decided it was in the city’s best interest to not take into city limits the Fast Mart at the intersection of West Hills Drive and West 4th Street, in part because of its location – just outside of city limits, yet not linked to any other city roadways.

“It doesn’t hook up with any street that’s currently in Hattiesburg (city limits) – you have to come down the Rails to Trails – so it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to us,” Pope said of council’s decision earlier this week. “We talked to the owner, and he’s fine with not being included in the city after all.”

The proposed annexation was originally approved by council members during an April 2015 council meeting, after Southern Oil Co. President Mitchell W. Morris had written letters to former Mayor Johnny DuPree and the council requesting the measure.

City officials filed for the annexation in October 2015 at Lamar County Chancery Court, but Lamar County officials – who were represented by Gulfport attorney Tim C. Holleman – filed a complaint against the move the following April. Holleman then filed a motion to dismiss the proposed annexation, but that motion was later denied in chancery court.

“That just made it more complicated, so I think we just decided it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to keep putting our efforts into this one,” Pope said.

The dismissal of this particular annexation attempt also will allow Hattiesburg officials to focus more on the proposed annexation of parts of U.S. 98 and Mississippi 49. Currently, annexation plans call for taking in much of the commercial corridor on U.S. 98, extending the city limits to Covington County along U.S. 49, and annexing the Windlass Drive area behind Newpointe Shopping Center.

“(The dismissal of the gas station annexation) allows us to put our efforts into the big one,” Pope said.

Hattiesburg’s annexation of those areas would interfere with the proposed incorporation of the Bellevue community, as annexation would include many properties that would fall under that incorporation, including Corner Market, Hattiesburg Clinic – Bellevue and Mack’s West. Bellevue officials, as well as the Lamar County Board of Supervisors, have previously challenged the measure in court.

John Adcock, Mayor-select of the proposed city of Bellevue, has made it clear that he will fight any of Hattiesburg’s attempts to annex any of the Bellevue community.

“This really is the most ludicrous annexation attempt probably in the state of Mississippi,” he said in a previous story. “(They’re) coming down Highway 98, not taking any voters, and taking all the sales tax out of the area, and trying to do so without giving the people of that community a vote or a say-so.”