A Harrison County jury slapped MDOT with a $6.2 million verdict after a developer sued MDOT for an improper taking of property it owned south of I-10. The lawsuit was filed in 2009 in Harrison County Circuit Court. Anita Lee reported in the Sun-Herald:
A Circuit Court jury in Harrison County recently delivered a $6.2 million verdict against the Mississippi State Department of Transportation’s governing commission, finding the damages are owed to development company Ward Properties Gulfport LP.
The jury said MDOT owes Ward Properties the money for taking 1,300 acres along the city’s commercial corridor in connection with a state port connector road that is now in limbo. The amount represents lost development opportunity for the property that sits south of Interstate 10 and west of U.S. 49.
A federal environmental permit issued to MDOT tied up the land from 2009 through 2012.
MDOT has not decided whether to appeal the decision, but is weighing its options, said the agency’s attorney, Christopher Howdeshell of Hattiesburg.
Attorneys for Ward Properties also are seeking $378,329 in attorney’s fees from MDOT. Judge Larry Bourgeois, who presided over the case, will enter a final judgment only after he decides whether MDOT should pay those fees.
The Ward family of Louisiana has been trying for years to develop the land, but has met with resistance from the community. Most of the property is wetlands. MDOT argued the property had no value for development, but the Wards currently propose development of 524 acres for mixed use. The project is undergoing extensive environmental review and includes features meant to alleviate flooding... Rest of article.