- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Supreme Court has overturned a ruling by a Jackson County judge who denied the state’s claim to two parcels of property on East Beach in Ocean Springs.

The state’s high court, in a 6-0 decision Thursday, ordered the case to trial.

Two families sued in 2010 to stop Ocean Springs from building a 3,470-foot long sidewalk on the beach. The city had obtained a lease from Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

The families argue that they own about 1,000 feet of the property where the proposed sidewalk was to be situated. They also say property south of the road and the seawall was on their deeds and they pay taxes on it.

Attorneys for Hosemann, Jackson County and the city argue that the property is public tidelands to be used for the benefit of the public.

The families say the tidelands boundary is actually at the water’s edge.

Chancery Judge Robert Lancaster ruled for the families in 2012. Lancaster said the tidelands owned by the state is the current mean high water line that adjoins the lands owned by families. He said that, as far as he could determine, the beach between the seawall and the mean high water line was naturally made, not man-made.

The Supreme Court, however, said Hosemann had presented the chancery court will sufficient evidence to argue that the sand beach was created by the filling of tidelands. Justice Leslie D. King wrote in the decision that state and local officials created genuine factual issues that should be heard at a trial.

The state’s position is that everything seaward of the average high tide line belongs to the state. In cases where there is a seawall and a beach that has had sand added to it below the seawall, the state owns everything from the bottom of the wall.

Hosemann and the others argued that if the ruling stands, a majority of the beaches in Jackson County could be considered private property.

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