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Gulfport seeks dismissal of annexation case

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The fight between the cities of Gulfport and Biloxi over a contested piece of land along the Mississippi Highway 605 corridor may be a step closer toward resolution.

Gulfport has asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to dismiss its appeal of an earlier court ruling. The vacationing Supreme Court has not ruled on the motion. The case is scheduled for oral arguments July 22 in Jackson. Biloxi and Gulfport have been battling over the same territory since 2009. Both cities are located in Harrison County, which has sided with Biloxi in the case.

John P. Scanlon, an attorney for the city of Gulfport, filed a motion last week with the high court saying that both parties have agreed to dismiss the case.

Biloxi officials said Tuesday the cities had agreed in April to drop the annexation case.

City of Biloxi spokesman Vincent Creel said both cities decided to "settle our differences over existing annexation cases and have no further annexation cases until at least June 2017, when the current terms of office expire."

He said Gulfport was to file a motion with the Supreme Court.

Gulfport wanted to annex a 2.5-square-mile area that encompasses property owned by developer James Frisby. Under an agreement with Frisby's Pitcher Point Investments, Gulfport agreed to bring city services to the property for an upscale residential development called Belle la Vie.

Both cities had sought at different times to incorporate Pitcher Point as part of each called a friendly annexation.

The city of Biloxi argued in court documents that for Gulfport to reach Frisby's property, it would have to annex a strip of unincorporated territory running along Biloxi's western and northern boundaries.

During a 2011 trial, Biloxi officials argue that in the middle of a trial on the annexation, Gulfport sought to amend documents related to municipal services to the Frisby property and Biloxi said it was unprepared to respond to the changes.

A Harrison County judge sided with Biloxi and dismissed Gulfport's annexation case.

Chancery Judge Thomas L. Zebert said he would not allow Gulfport to alter its plans for the delivery of municipal improvements in the middle of the trial. He ordered the city to start over and adopt a new annexation ordinance, file an amended petition and republish public notices as required by law.

Despites its motion to dismiss the case, Scanlon said the city of Gulfport "does not in any way retreat from its position that the chancellor's opinion was flawed in fact and law."

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