RIPLEY • Last month, the Mississippi Supreme Court let stand the ruling of the Tippah County Circuit Court that removed County Road 701A from the Official Road Map. The Supreme Court’s decision brought to an end, the Tippah County Board of Supervisors’ efforts to reopen the road.
County Road 701A was originally closed by an order of the Board of Supervisors in January, 2015. The closure was based on an application of Frank Lerose of Collierville, Tennessee who bought property that includes portions of the road. The Board of Supervisors was told that the landowners on County Road 701A agreed to the closure.
About 17 months later, the Board of Supervisors was contacted by Jerry Hill who owns timberland at the end of the road. According to Hill, “The road is basically a field road and we only use it to maintain the land.” Hill had lost his prior access from County Road 744 and attempted to enter through County Road 701A but noticed that a cable had been placed across the road. He demanded that County Road 701A be reopened. Once the Board of Supervisors learned that all of the landowners on County Road 701A had not agreed, the Board immediately rescinded its order to reopen the road and gave notice of its decision to Lerose. Lerose did not appeal the decision but made efforts to give Hill alternate access which Hill rejected.
Lerose then filed a lawsuit against Tippah County alleging that the Board of Supervisors did not have the authority to take his land after it abandoned the county road. Judge Andrew Howorth agreed and ordered that the road be closed.
The Board of Supervisors appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court arguing that Lerose should have appealed the Board’s decision to reopen the road. The Supreme Court rejected the arguments and said that “Tippah County’s interest in the LeRoses’ property had terminated when the February 2015 order became effective.” Supervisors disagreed with the decision saying that the Board followed the law. The Supreme Court confirmed that “It is true that no statute explicitly requires notice of a hearing to reconsider a prior decision of a board of supervisors,” but said that Lerose should have been given special notice of the meeting to reopen the road before the meeting.
Board minutes indicated that after the Supreme Court’s decision, Fourth District Supervisor Dennis Grisham moved to retake the road by eminent domain but the motion did not receive a second. Grisham’s motion would have sought to retake the road from Lerose after the payment of compensation.
Chancery Court records indicate that Hill has filed a lawsuit against Lerose to establish an easement to give him private access.