Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said he believes the public owns the land along East Beach in Ocean Springs where officials want to build a new sidewalk.
Two property owners have challenged the plan in Chancery Court in Hinds County because the Secretary Of State’s Office is located there. A ruling is expected on Friday.
Hosemann’s office gave permission to the city to build the 6-foot-wide sidewalk along the seawall, using a grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
Those plans are on hold after Jackson County Chancery Judge D. Neil Harris and Biloxi attorney Buddy Gunn, who own property there, brought a suit challenging the proposal. John Corlew, an attorney for the two, said he doesn’t believe the matter involves a state tidelands issue so the Secretary of State’s Office doesn’t have jurisdiction. His clients also contend they own the land to the water’s edge.
Hosemann said the area where the sidewalk would be built is public property and the new sidewalk would be handicapped accessible and would give people room to gather their beach supplies without standing in the street.
Hosemann said he believes the landowners ultimately want to prevent the public from using the beach there.
“It’s for families and it’s for the public,” Hosemann said. “It shouldn’t be stopped by someone wanting to stop public use.”
Corlew said the landowners have no intention of limiting public access to the beach.
“The problem the secretary of state has is that the only jurisdiction he has on coastal wetlands is where property is tidelands,” Corlew said. “Tidelands are lands that are daily covered by waters by the action of the tides.”
Hosemann said his office and the city acted properly.
“It was clear to us that we hadn’t infringed on anybody’s rights and the state of Mississippi and the city have the right to make improvements on the sand beach,” Hosemann said.