- Associated Press - Sunday, May 21, 2017

PURVIS, Miss. (AP) - Organizers of a drive to incorporate the Lamar County community of Bellevue say they have gathered enough signatures to form a city.

John Adcock, who would be mayor of the new city, announced the milestone before Lamar County supervisors Thursday.

“We needed two-thirds of the registered voters and we’ve surpassed that mark, so we are officially filing the petition to become the next city in the State of Mississippi,” Adocck said.

He wouldn’t tell local exactly how many signatures organizers have gathered. He said disclosing the exact number could hamper a legal fight over the city of Hattiesburg’s attempt to annex some areas.

The incorporation drive on the western fringe of Hattiesburg is aimed at keeping the larger city from taking in more territory. Organizers have been gathering signatures for 20 months.

“We didn’t come looking for a fight, but we’ve been clear - if it’s a fight they’re looking for, we’re prepared to have that fight,” Adcock said. “I want to call upon the leadership of the city of Hattiesburg to honor the will of the people of Bellevue and withdraw their annexation.”

A Lamar County chancery judge will have to rule on the petition before the city would take shape.

Dianne Williams, 72, has lived in Bellevue for 52 years and is opposed to it becoming a city.

“We live in the country,” she said. “We don’t want to live in the city. We’ve got everything we need from the county. We have water. We have septic systems. We have sheriff protection.”

But Lamar County Supervisor Phillip Carlisle said he has supported the plans for the future city, saying it can better control urbanization. That’s even though Lamar County government would lose some property tax revenue.

“I don’t know if it’s the perfect answer for Lamar County, but you’ll see a very upscale development - you’ll see increased property values,” he said. “The people that are responsible for this effort are very well-intentioned people. I don’t think they have any selfish motives.”

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