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Final annexation ruling may be year away

While the transcript for an annexation trial appeal is due inJanuary, participants expect a state Supreme Court ruling on thecity’s expansion efforts could be a year or more down the road.

“I would anticipate it being at least another year before wehave an adjudication by the court,” said City Attorney JoeFernald.

Following a trial in late 2003 and early 2004, an orderapproving Brookhaven’s annexation of 14.4 square miles of territorywas entered in Lincoln County Chancery Court Aug. 8. The rulingwould allow the city to more than triple its current size.

More than 250 objectors subsequently appealed the decision.

Objectors, attorneys and court officials are now awaitingpreparation of the trial transcript and exhibits.

“The record is going to be rather extraordinary in that you haveover 100 exhibits and a trial that covered two months plus motionshearings records,” Fernald said.

Chancery court officials said the transcript was originally dueDec. 13, but an extension to Jan. 12 was granted. Officials saidcourt reporters could be given additional time to prepare therecord.

Following receipt of the transcript, chancery court officialswill have 30 days to assemble copies of exhibits and other courtdocuments. Attorneys on both sides will then have seven days eachto review the record.

“Once the record has been reviewed by both sides, the briefingschedule begins,” Fernald said.

Fernald said the city has not decided if it will seek across-appeal to obtain some areas west of Interstate 55 that wereexcluded from the approved annexation. He said that decision wouldbe made by the board of aldermen in consultation with its attorneysand annexation consultants.

Although he did not identify any specifics, the attorneymentioned parts of that area that are showing signs of growth.

“The west side of the interstate has developed,” Fernald said.”That supports the claim that’s where the town is going.”

Sandra Gerald, spokesperson for the objectors, said the groupremains committed to challenging the annexation.

“We feel we have grounds to appeal. That has not changed,”Gerald said.

Gerald said there were some developments, such as flooding andinfrastructure issues, after the trial that showed the city did notneed to expand. With limited rainfall during the course of thetrial, she said objectors were unable to prove those conditionsduring the court contest.

Following some heavy rainfall periods, city officials in recentmonths have been working on a plan to address flooding andditch-related problems across town. Gerald commended Mayor BobMassengill and his leadership in trying to tackle that issue.

“He’s made a tremendous effort to take care of that and thepeople,” Gerald said. “That’s what you expect of the leaders andthe town.”

However, Gerald said the city should resolve problems in itscurrent territory before seeking to add more space and people.

“It’s not that Brookhaven’s not a wonderful city,” Gerald said.”It’s just that they’ve got some things they need to take care ofbefore adding area to what they’ve already got.”