Lawsuit settlement: Waveland cottages can stay

By Al Showers - bio | email

WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - A discrimination lawsuit filed against the city of Waveland over MEMA cottages is over. The settlement means that people living in MEMA cottages can keep the units on private property, as long as they meet proper elevation and other zoning requirements.

The Mississippi Center For Justice filed the lawsuit on behalf of several Waveland residents who wanted to make their temporary cottages their permanent homes.

"The weight has been lifted and I immediately called my husband and told him. I said, 'It's ours. It's finally, finally ours,'" Waveland resident Cheryl Kring said.

Kring has been in the forefront of the MEMA cottage battle in Waveland since it started nearly six months ago.

She and six other Waveland residents filed a lawsuit against the city after leaders adopted a cottage ordinance with 16 restrictions.

The residents said the rules were designed to prevent them from making cottages permanent homes. Residents had to have owed their property prior to August 29, 2005, they had to have a homestead exemption in place prior to the storm, and the property had to have been in the resident's name, not in a relative's name.

"They were just too strict. And too many people do live, unfortunately, on property that's been handed down just like mine," Kring said.

City leaders lifted all of the restrictions except for one. The cottages can't be rented. The owner must use it as his or her permanent residence.

"Which is fine, because that's not what I want anyway. I want to live here," Kring said.

James Bodden was also a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

"Every day it was on your mind. You woke up wondering if you're going to get a knock on your door saying, We're not going to allow them to stay. You need to get out," Bodden said.

Andrew Canter with the Mississippi Center for Justice, along with the New York law firm Kirkland & Ellis represented the cottage dwellers free of charge.

"I feel very good we were able to come to terms here and move beyond litigation," Canter said.

"This is not a lose for the city and a win for us. It is a win, win situation. And I say that because we get to keep our cottages, and the city of Waveland gets to keep their residents," Kring said.

As part of the settlement agreement between the two groups, the six families that filed the suit have agreed to drop the case.

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