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Chancellor to get look at proposed annexation sites

So far in Brookhaven’s annexation trial, Special Chancellor JohnC. Ross Jr. has seen places like Heuck’s Retreat Road, Union StreetExtension or Lakewood Village only on maps or in photographs.

On Monday, the judge who will decide whether the city gets toannex those areas and others will see them firsthand. While perhapspassing through an area while coming into Brookhaven on his wayfrom Corinth, Ross said he has avoided viewing the proposedannexation area since the trial began Nov. 5.

“I make a point of not going to see the property unless all theattorneys and court personnel are involved,” Ross said Fridayduring a trial break.

Until this year, Ross was one of three chancery court judges inthe eight-county First Chancery Court District. He now acceptsspecial appointments like Brookhaven’s annexation trial.

Ross said he will allow attorneys to decide what areas arevisited Monday. He said the visits will be beneficial and help himrelate to what he has seen in trial.

Jerry Mills, the city’s annexation attorney, did not identifywhat areas the plaintiffs plan to view.

“We want to take the judge through a representatives view ofdevelopment in the area,” Mills said.

The city is asking to annex over 16 square miles of area. Millspointed out that the approximately 3,300 population in the proposedarea is larger than at least 240 of the state’s 300municipalities.

“The conditions on the ground are important in this case,” saidMills, alluding to areas of growth and the city’s need to be ableto control that.

Attorney Jerry Evans, who is representing several individualobjectors, expected the judge also to be taken to areas inside thecity. Evans discounted Mills’ assertions about growth andconditions in the proposed annexation area.

“You can go into any community in this state and find problemsthey have been portraying,” Evans said. “A lot of the problems aretypical of rural areas.”

Evans said the argument in the case is not whether the city canprovide a higher level of service than what the county residentsare already getting.

“The argument is at what cost can they provide this higher levelof service,” Evans said.

During trial Friday, annexation consultant Mike Slaughterconcluded direct examination by Mills. The focus of Slaughter’stestimony has been on the 12 indicia of reasonableness, such aspath of growth, expansion need and zoning concerns, that the citymust prove in order to be able to annex.

Following Monday morning’s excursion with the judge, objectors’attorneys Evans, Carlisle Henderson and Ed Lobrano are expected tocross-examine Slaughter.

Objectors should then begin presenting their side of thecase.

Sandra Gerald, who is one of over 200 objectors, has listened tomost of the trial testimony. As one of several objectors expectedto testify, Gerald did not comment on the trial so far, but she didsay she was optimistic.

“I feel good about our case,” Gerald said.