Mississippi high court to hear church dispute

January 9, 2012 11:15:00 AM



JACKSON -- The Mississippi Supreme Court has agreed to hear a dispute over the move of a church in Oxford. 


Last spring, the state Court of Appeals upheld a judge's ruling that subdivision covenants will not hinder the Oxford Church of Christ in moving to a new site north of town.  


In 2009, Lafayette County Circuit Judge Perry Lynchard Jr. ruled in favor of property owners Ernest and Bonnie Harland. His ruling said covenants on the 12-acre site the Harlands purchased in the Long Meadow subdivision would not prohibit the building of a church there.  


The Long Meadow Homeowners' Association argued that their covenants allow only for the building of single-family homes. They objected after Ernest Harland, an elder in the Church of Christ, purchased the property with the church in mind. 


The Supreme Court's decision this past week to hear the appeal is the latest development in a dispute that dates back to 2007. Early that year, the Church of Christ announced its plan to sell its downtown building to developers and build a new facility. 


The Long Meadow neighbors objected to having the new church in their area, while others organized to try to influence the church to stay downtown, or at least to ensure the building's preservation. 


Oxford officials stepped in to bring the church building into the protection of a new historic preservation district. The developer who first envisioned replacing the church with a hotel dropped out; a second developer with plans for preserving the building quit after the Oxford Planning Commission rejected his parking plans. 


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