Legal spat develops over river bank

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 29, 2008

Legal wrangling over who owns property at the end of Lee Street near the Mississippi River continues to delay commercial development there. Briefs were requested this week in a suit filed in Warren County Circuit Court     involving Golding Development Company LLC, Lewis M. Miller Jr. and Riverview Development Company LLC.

Golding Barge Line Inc. hasasked Vicksburg officials to abandon a portion of the street  fronting property just past Lee’s intersection with Pearl Street near rail lines so the barge operator can develop the acreage for office  space and other purposes.

In a separate move this month, city zoning board officials grantedan exception to Golding to place apair of double-wide manufacturedstructures on property at 101 LeeSt., former site of Central Industriesand land that was once eyed by Mississippi Folly LLC, plannersof the Gold Coast Casino planned inthe mid-1990s but not built.

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Though the board concurred withMayor Laurence Leyens in principleon deeding over the unused cityproperty,  officials put off a decision Wednesday on the proposal, citingthe pending court case.

“If it gets resolved, no problem,”Leyens said, adding the partiesneed to find an amicable solution tothe issue in the name of long-termgoals to develop the mostly industrialarea for commercial and residential purposes.

“It’s Sausalito in my mind,”Leyens said, referring to the Californiacommunity on San Francisco Bay known for its vistas. The property to be developed here, formerlyan industrial site, is at the confluence of the Mississippi andYazoo Diversion Canal and offers unobstructed views of the river and river bridges.

Golding’s property is adjacent to that held by Miller and Riverview, named as co-defendants in the suit filed in March. The  suit claims officials with Miller’s nearby rock yard operation have driven trucks and heavy equipment and have dug a ditch obstructing access to Golding’s property, he said was deeded to him by the casino developers. Punitive and other damages are being sought.

In filed responses, defense counsel has denied the allegations, including Golding’s claim to own the property. City Attorney Nancy Thomas said the city would owe damages if the board voted to abandon the portion before the case is settled.  Further, she said, research on the land leading up to recent board actions showed the original title work to be“a mess.”

Abandoning the lower portion of Lee and an agreed-upon easement from Ergon Refining, another adjacent landholder, would speed up his plans, Golding said.

“It would be second-to-none in Vicksburg,” Golding said, who turned down offers by city legal counsel for a temporary encroachment permit. Instead, Golding told the mayor and aldermen, he would sell Miller available land to avoid further legal woes.

“I would love a north-south corridor. I don’t have anything against (Miller). All I want is to be left alone,” Golding said.

The case has been assigned to Judge Frank Vollor and remains in discovery phases.