City plans to use eminent domain: Hattiesburg MS American, 6/23/07

By Nancy Kaffer

The [Petal MS] city's move to begin eminent domain proceedings to acquire two properties near Friendly Park may face opposition from the land's owners.

City tax rolls list the two parcels' owners as Annie Cooper and Rayborn Lee Jr., city attorney Tom Tyner said.

The two parcels are part of a 6-acre swath of land adjacent to Friendly Park that city officials say is necessary for a planned expansion of the city's softball fields, touted as a major economic development tool for the city's future growth.

Eminent domain is a legal process through which government entities can force private property owners to sell land for projects deemed necessary for the public good.

Offers to buy the property were refused, Mayor Carl Scott said.

Cooper, whose daughter Tracy Tisdale is employed in the Hattiesburg American's customer service department, was offered $3,750 for one parcel of land and $23,400 for another, Scott said.

In previous interviews, Cooper's daughter Shirley Ducksworth had called the city's purchase prices inadequate.

Ducksworth said this week that her mother's attorney was handling all matters related to the land.

The city offered to pay the other property owner $31,500 for his property, Scott said, based on a figure from local appraiser Stan Lightsey.

The other two parcels city officials are eyeing belong to Petal resident Jimmie Dale Odom and recently-deceased Louise Haynes.

Scott had told Haynes, who died last week, that her property "probably" wasn't part of the city's proposed acquisition.

Tuesday, the mayor said that offers to purchase Haynes' and Odom's land were still in the works.

"It's a moot point," Scott said.

But Haynes' daughter, Carol Rayborn, said the city had offered her mother $30,000 for her home.

"She told them she owed that much on it," Rayborn said. "Mama didn't want to sell for that because she couldn't find anywhere else to stay for that."

Rayborn said she and her siblings haven't yet discussed whether they'll sell the property.

Petal city attorney Tom Tyner said Tuesday that he expected to file the papers to begin the process in a week to 10 days, and said the matter should be resolved by October.

Hattiesburg MS American: http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com