Harrison County

Skeletal condos — and the people who live nearby — could finally get their day in court

The caretaker for property formerly known as Village at Henderson Point cuts the grass there on Wednesday. Harrison County ordered the unfinished structures be demolished in 2016 after residents of the Inn by the Sea condominiums, background, complained about the unfinished project.
The caretaker for property formerly known as Village at Henderson Point cuts the grass there on Wednesday. Harrison County ordered the unfinished structures be demolished in 2016 after residents of the Inn by the Sea condominiums, background, complained about the unfinished project. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

Harrison County and the owner of an unfinished condominium project on Henderson Point are supposed to be in court Thursday to decide whether the county has the right to have the skeletal buildings on the property torn down.

But the owner of a condo unit next door said he wonders if that hearing will take place because 101 4th Ave. LLC has asked for and received last-minute continuances before.

“This is the fourth time that they’ve scheduled these hearings and I’ve rearranged my schedule,” said Steve Theriot, president of the homeowner’s association at the adjacent Inn by the Sea. “I have this crippling disease: I have to work. My clients don’t understand when I keep reshuffling them. So, tomorrow, I won’t be able to go but one board member, and maybe two and some other neighbors will be there — if they don’t postpone it.”

Theriot and others in the Harrison County neighborhood just west of Pass Christian are fed up with the condo, which has been under construction since 2007. It is on the site of the Village at Henderson Point, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Nothing has been done at the site in years.

“I’ve been there since 2010, when the place opened up,” Theriot said. “There used to be more things in the yard, containers that had windows and such, that were broken into. We’ve had a continuing problem by the beach, on the east side, they scale the fence and go into the property. We’ve had to call the police on a number of times because we don’t know who those people are or what they’re doing.”

Harrison County supervisors in October 2016 found the site was blighted and ordered the remains on the condo project torn down. It sits on beautiful beachfront property next to the Inn, which is mostly occupied by vacationers who rent from the owners of condo units. There are few homes nearby.

The owners have told the county they want to resume construction if they can get a building permit but the land also is listed for sale with a realtor.

101 4th Ave. appealed the supervisors’ decision to Circuit Court, arguing that supervisors exceeded their authority, were arbitrary and capricious in finding the property was a blight and were illegally trying to take the property without compensation.

M. Brant Pettis, attorney for 101 4th Ave., said the county didn’t prove the property was “no longer in a state of repair suitable for use and occupancy” under the House Bill 1582, which the county said it relied on to make its case, because the condos were unfinished and had never been in a state where they could be occupied.

County attorney Tim Holleman said several witnesses from Inn by the Sea testified to the board that they believed the property was a blight on the community.

“These residents are understandably upset at what they must endure daily by looking at the Appellant’s property from their own,” he wrote in the county’s response to the appeal. “Multiple witnesses appeared before the Board of Supervisors on or about October 3, 2016 and some testified under oath that the subject property was a ‘blight’ on their community, causing them the loss of enjoyment of their nearby properties, even devaluing their properties and demanding action by the Board of Supervisors. The Appellant presented virtually no evidence in rebuttal thereto or supporting that its property was not a blight on the community.”

He said that more than satisfied a standard established by the state Supreme Court.

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