The City of Biloxi and Harrison County have entered into a lease with RW Development for the building and operation of the pier.
A Harrison County court dismissed a lawsuit that blocked the construction of a public pier in Biloxi. A public pier had been located at the location on Veteran’s Avenue for several years, but was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The court ruled that the city is allowed to build the pier without a lease from the Secretary of State’s office.
WLOX-TV reported that the Secretary of State’s office had sued over a plan by Biloxi and Harrison county to lease the property to RW Development for construction of a municipal pier for public use.
“I am disappointed in the recent ruling and on Tuesday filed an appeal requesting a review of this decision before the Mississippi Supreme Court. I grew up on the Coast, want to see it prosper as much as anyone, and offered a rent-exempt lease for this project that was rejected,” Secretary of State Michael Watson told Y’all Politics. “The legislature named the Secretary of State as Trustee of the state’s Public Trust Tidelands to protect the interest of all three million Mississippi citizens in state-owned property along the Coast. All agencies and governing bodies should abide by the laws governing the use of state-held lands as written by the legislature. I believe the recent ruling is inconsistent with existing law and prior court decisions; therefore, it is my sworn duty as Trustee to ask the Mississippi Supreme Court to have the final say.”
Harrison County Chancery Court Judge Jennifer Schloegel wrote in a ruling filed Monday that many decades prior to this litigation, the Biloxi Port Commission constructed, maintained, and re-constructed the pier south of Harrison County at the extension of Veterans Avenue, without having a tidelands lease from the Secretary of State.
Judge Schloegel wrote that the construction and lease of the pier at the foot of Veterans Avenue will not only aid in commerce, navigation, and recreation, but will also promote tourism and trade in the ports.
“The Court further finds that municipal piers and harbors have been constructed within the City for many decades without the requirement of a tidelands lease from the Secretary. Pursuant to specific statutory grants, cited herein, of the right to reclaim and use Tidelands, these piers and harbors have been constructed in furtherance of the higher public purposes of the Public Trust for Tidelands,” Schloegel opined in the court filing.
The court filings continues to explain that ,”the State has acquiesced for many decades in the use of these Tidelands for these higher public purposes without having or requiring a tidelands lease from the Secretary, and, accordingly, the State is estopped from asserting that a tidelands lease is now necessary to act in furtherance of the higher public purposes of the Trust.”