- Associated Press - Friday, July 18, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Supreme Court has upheld a state judge’s order that lets the city of Oxford annex the site of Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi’s new hospital.

In March 2013, a Lafayette County chancery judge ruled in favor of several landowners who petitioned the court to allow Oxford to take in the property. The process is called inclusion, a procedure that produces the same result as annexation but is initiated by someone other than the city. It avoids what can be a long annexation process.

Kenneth Farrell and two other opponents appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. They argued the city of Oxford was misusing Mississippi’s inclusion statute and was “an attempt to divert development from other more desirable sites” in the city.

Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi is building a $300 million medical center on a 160-acre site south of Mississippi Highway 6. It will have 217 beds initially and could expand to 290 beds.

The petition to include the land inside the city limits was filed in February 2013 by Bob and Beth King, who sold the property to Baptist. The petition was filed so the new hospital could receive fire and police protection and city water and sewer services.

Baptist officials had said inclusion was not a stipulation of its plan for the hospital and that even if the state judge ruled differently, it would not have stopped construction of the facility.

Farrell argued state law requires an inclusion petition to be signed by two-thirds of the qualified electors residing in the area proposed to be included in the city limits. He said only one petitioner - Catherine Babb- lived in the area but moved out before the trial.

The city and hospital argued the Supreme Court has found the question of whether the “two-thirds” signature requirement has been met is determined when the petition is filed.

The Supreme Court said because Babb was the only qualified elector residing within the area at the time the petitions were filed, the two-thirds requirement was met.

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