After over two years of legal battles, including preservation efforts through the City Ordinances, the City of Clinton has won a lawsuit against Olde Towne property owner Matthew D. Wiggins. The Hon. Larita Cooper-Stokes, Hinds County court judge, in a specially constituted Special Court of Eminent Domain, ruled on December 6, 2018: “That the City of Clinton shall be allowed to stabilize the economy of the commercial area with historic ramifications evidenced by the action of the governing authorities to enforce legislative code in special renewal districts, including the subject property at 110 and 112 Leake Street.”
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Mississippi Constitution require a governmental entity to show a public purpose and provide just compensation for any taking of private property, which is referred to as “eminent domain.” The Urban Renewal Law for the State of Mississippi, used by the City in this proceeding, authorizes the use of eminent domain in connection with an Urban Renewal Plan and Project. In this instance, the City’s Plan focused on the continued preservation of structures in the Olde Towne Historic District.
The trial by jury, which concluded early this month, established just compensation for the City’s acquisition. Under the Urban Renewal Law, once this amount is paid, ownership transfers to the City.
The City will then follow a legal process to transfer ownership of the property for restoration consistent with the approved Urban Renewal Plan. City leaders have expressed a desire to sell the properties to the person or entity with the best plan for redevelopment and preservation of the two historical buildings.
A former Clinton resident, Wiggins, now a resident and Alderman of Kemah, Texas, owns multiple properties in the Olde Towne area, but the two included in the recently adjucated lawsuit were the historical buildings at the northeast corner of Jefferson and Leake Streets, which were once the site of Chilton’s store, where the assassination of pioneering black Clintonian, Senator Charles Caldwell, occurred December 27, 1875. It is one of the most well documented places in Clinton’s early history.
The City had argues that Wiggins failed to maintain his property, and also failed to make required repairs to his property in keeping with the City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance. The Olde Towne Clinton district is on the National Register of Historic Places and has numerous State and Local historical markers.
written by Katherine R. Dougan