Cities Square Off Over Annexation Area

Biloxi and D'Iberville are squaring off in court over the proposed annexation of ten square miles.

Leaders from both cities claim the area lies in their "path of growth".

The land in question is located north of Interstate 10 along Highway 15. It extends eastward to the Jackson County line. There are just over 13 hundred residents in the area both cities are after.

The City of Biloxi tried to take in this land when it annexed Woolmarket. But a chancery judge removed this section from the proposed Woolmarket annexation in 1997. Two years later, D'Iberville filed annexation papers for the area and Biloxi also filed a claim.

Monday morning, Judge Shannon Cark from Wayneboro, began hearing annexation arguments at the courthouse in Gulfport.

City leaders may want a decision soon but the hearing is likely to take at least four weeks.

The judge must sort out the desires of several sides. Not only do Biloxi and D'Iberville have a stake in this but Harrison County is also represented. Those living in the area, also have strong feelings.

Super Wal Mart started an economic boom that's attracted dozens of new businesses to the area just north of Interstate 10. D'Iberville's mayor says the commercial expansion is pushing his city northward, toward the proposed annexation area.

"The economic growth is taking over our residential areas. So, we want our citizens to remain in the City of D'Iberville. So, in order to do that, we're going to have to go north," said Mayor Rusty Quave.

Biloxi is also looking north. The larger city has the support of some two dozen Wells Ferry residents who filed suit asking to be annexed by Biloxi.

Mayor A.J. Holloway says Biloxi is better suited to take over the area in question.

"We got petitions from people who live outside the City of Biloxi, once they heard that D'Iberville was going to do an annexation. So, it really left us no choice but to go in and protect our path of growth and the people that petitioned us. We're not going to abandon them."

The Highway 15 grocery store is a good spot to sample public opinion. And the word is: leave us alone. The store owner put out a petition once the annexation talk turned serious.

"We circulated a petition before this ever started. And we had well over 400 names against it. And there was no one, no one said that they wanted either party to take them," said Rick Randazzo.

Harrison County opposes annexation by either city. An attorney told me Harrison County will argue this area is rural in nature and doesn't need annexation since the county already provides municipal services.

A judge will hear from the experts before deciding which government has the strongest argument for laying claim to this area.