Time to let bygones be bygones

Published 12:02 am Saturday, April 12, 2014

Randy and Lisa Ashcraft’s lawsuit against the City of Vicksburg, former Mayor Paul Winfield and several city police officers that ended in the city’s favor in a lower court has been upheld in federal appeals court.
The Ashcrafts, who own 1221 Washington St., had sued the city and the other defendants in 2011, claiming various forms of harassment that dated to 2009. The Florida couple sought unspecified damages and claimed violations their constitutional rights.
In July, U.S. District Court in Jackson ruled their claims, though significant, didn’t pass legal tests to constitute a violation of their constitutional rights.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, in a ruling this week from Houston-based senior judge Thomas M. Reavley, San Antonio-based Judge Edward C. Prado and Houston-based Judge Edith H. Jones, backed up the district court ruling on several points, including arguments from Winfield and former deputy police chief John Dolan that each was entitled to qualified immunity, as they were both public officials.
The Ashcrafts had planned a bakery in the building they own when they purchased it in 2008. Built in the 1960s, it was home to First Federal Savings & Loan and the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau before it was deemed unsafe in 2006 after the neighboring building collapsed during renovations.
In July, two days after the original lawsuit filed by the downtown property was dismissed, the couple filed papers with the city to tear down the building. Demolition of any structure in Vicksburg’s historic district requires permission from the city’s Board of Architectural Review.
Later that month, the architectural review board issued a 180-day hold on any demolition, based primarily on a recommendation by Nancy Bell of the Vicksburg Foundation of Historic Preservation. In an email, she recommended enforcing the stay, stating that ridding Washington Street of the structure, built in the mid-1960s and first home to First Federal Savings and Loan, was “inconceivable” because it’s in “excellent condition.”
“It has achieved significance over time and is an important and vital part of the streetscape,” read the email in part, noting its relatively young age compared to the rest of downtown Vicksburg. “Lisa, most especially, has worked hard to make it into a showpiece. Its massing, its design, and its materials make it a contributing building to the district. It does not need, nor does it deserve, to be demolished.” In October, Randy Ashcraft requested the couple’s permit to demolish the building be withdrawn.
Now that the lawsuit has been dismissed it is time to bury the hatchet and let bygones be bygones. Most of the individuals named in the suit are no longer employed with the city and current Mayor George Flaggs Jr. has made every attempt to smooth things over. We hope this is the end of that forlorn saga.