Gautier begins eminent domain proceedings against Belk agreement

The Gautier City Council passed a resolution Tuesday night authorizing its attorneys to file condemnation proceedings against Belk Stores of Mississippi in order to acquire the development rights to the property for the city.

The council recognized that the property had remained undeveloped since 2013 and had become a blighted and dilapidated parcel. Gautier bought the mall property from Singing River, LLC, on Nov. 8, 2021, and intends to redevelop the property to include city facilities, a Mississippi Songwriters Performing Arts Center and structures for retail, grocery and multi-family dwelling uses.

Belk purportedly holds certain development rights and other property interests in the vacant property where the former Singing River Mall was located. City officials could not reach an agreement with Belk to buy the rights against the property.

Belk Stores of Mississippi, LLC, purportedly holds development and other rights to the property because of an operating agreement from 1978 and an amendment to that agreement made in 1980.

The city said in a press release that the rights that are held by Belk are impeding and preventing the development of the mall property for the city.

As a result, the city passed a resolution condemning Belk’s rights to the property. The property itself  is not part of condemnation — just Belk’s rights.

Christopher Howdeshell, an attorney from Hattiesburg experienced in eminent domain litigation, will represent the City of Gautier.

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