Over the years, the firm of Stennett, Wilkinson & Peden has won numerous legal victories for its clients before both state and federal courts and before both state and federal administrative agencies. In many cases, there were no appeals which resulted in formally reported legal Opinions published in official reporters. However, the firm would like to mention a few of its most significant cases, those which resulted in reported legal Opinions.
The 13-Story Building at Renaissance at Colony Park
The firm served as lead counsel for the developer of Renaissance at Colony Park in securing authorization from the City of Ridgeland, over strong opposition from nearby homeowners, to construct the 200 Renaissance Building, a $60 million facility, to a height of 13 stories. That building houses the state’s largest law firm, the state’s largest certified public accounting firm, and the regional headquarters of a major bank. The Mississippi Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the action of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the City of Ridgeland in granting a Special Exception to permit the building to be constructed to a height of 13
See Hall v. City of Ridgeland, 37 So.3d 25 (Miss. 2010).
The Emergency Shelter for Abused and Neglected Children:
The firm successfully represented Christians In Action, Inc., in securing authorization under the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Jackson to relocate its emergency shelter for abused and neglected children to a residential neighborhood. There was strong opposition from the neighborhood and initially from some members of the Jackson City Council. The litigation resulted in a landmark decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit declaring that the Fair Housing Act applies to zoning matters in Mississippi.
See United States v. City of Jackson, Mississippi, 359 F.3d 727 (5th Cir. 2004).
Protecting Environmentally Sensitive Lake from Gaming:
When gaming became lawful in Mississippi, the Tunica County Board of Supervisors rezoned land along the environmentally sensitive Tunica Cutoff Lake to permit gaming casinos to be located there. Appealing on behalf of persons who wanted the lake to remain in its natural state, the firm persuaded the Tunica County Circuit Court to reverse the rezoning, thereby protecting the environment of Tunica Cutoff Lake. The Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed the action of the Circuit Court. As a result of the firm’s efforts in protecting Tunica Cutoff Lake, gaming in Tunica County moved north to Robinsonville.
See Blenis v. Nel-Win Concerned Property Owners, 672 So.2d 771 (Miss. App. 1996).
Recovering State Funds in the Magnolia Venture Capital Corporation Matter:
Upon the recommendation of the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development (“MDEC”), the Mississippi Legislature created the Magnolia Venture Capital Corporation to provide investment capital for new businesses in Mississippi. However, a rogue group of Magnolia Venture directors began to misapply state funds. The firm represented MDEC in securing a return of state funds. Magnolia Venture invoked the protection of the bankruptcy laws. The complex litigation went through the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and ultimately the United States Supreme Court, which declined to review the Fifth Circuit’s ruling in favor of MDEC. The firm successfully argued that the state’s Eleventh Amendment immunity prevented the rogue directors from suing MDEC.
See Magnolia Venture Capital Corp. v. Prudential Securities, Inc., 151 F.3d 439 (5th Cir. 1998), cert. denied sub nom. Magnolia Venture Capital Corp. v. Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development, 525 U.S. 1178, 119 S.Ct. 1115, 143 L.Ed.2d 110 (1999).
Merger of Two Mississippi Banks:
The firm won a significant victory in a case involving banking law and antitrust law, when it persuaded the federal courts to reverse the action of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in denying a merger between two Pike County banks, Southwest Mississippi and Bank of McComb, on anti-competitive grounds. See Southwest Mississippi Bank v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 499 F.Supp. 1 (1979), affirmed, 625 F.2d 1013 (5th Cir. 1980).
Two Supreme Court Zoning Victories on the Same Day:
On December 7, 1983, the Mississippi Supreme Court issued Opinions granting clients of the firm victories in two zoning appeals involving property on Lakeland Drive in the City of Jackson. Both appeals involved efforts by the firm’s clients to rezone tracts of land on the north side of Lakeland Drive, one across from St. Dominic Hospital and the other across from The Quarter, to a commercial classification. There was strong opposition from the Woodland Hills and Eastover homeowners.
See Woodland Hills Conservation Association, Inc. v. City of Jackson, 443 So.2d 1173 (Miss. 1983); Bridges v. City of Jackson, 443 So.2d 1187 (Miss. 1983).
The Life Insurance Material Misrepresentation Case:
In federal litigation, the firm represented the beneficiary of a life insurance policy in recovering policy proceeds from an insurance company claiming that the applicant engaged in fraudulent misrepresentation in completing the medical portion of the application. The case went to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit two separate times, but the Fifth Circuit ultimately ruled that the firm’s client, the beneficiary of the policy, was entitled to recover the policy proceeds.
See Trawick v. Manhattan Life Ins. Co. of New York, New York, 447 F.2d 1293 (5th Cir. 1971); 484 F.2d 535 (5th Cir. 1973).
The Non-Termination of Alimony Case:
Establishing a major precedent in divorce law, the firm persuaded the Mississippi Supreme Court to reverse the Hinds County Chancery Court and to declare that alimony payments do not terminate upon the death of a former spouse.
See In re Last Will and Testament of J. E. Sheppard, Sr., 757 So.2d 173 (Miss. 2000).
In several relatively recent zoning matters, the firm successfully represented its clients in securing the desired result without an appeal being filed. These cases include such matters as the following:
The High-Rise Condominium Case:
The firm secured approval under the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Jackson for the construction of The Barrington, the first high-rise luxury condominium complex in the City of Jackson, at the intersection of Interstate Highway 55 with Meadowbrook Road.
The C-Spire Building Case:
The firm secured authorization for the developer of Renaissance at Colony Park to construct the C-Spire Building to a height of eight stories under the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Ridgeland.
The Replica of the Washington Monument Case:
The firm secured a Special Exception to authorize both the construction of, and then the relocation of, a replica of the Washington Monument along Interstate Highway 55 in the City of Ridgeland. The replica, which houses telecommunications towers inside, is a landmark designating Colony Park, a major development that includes both Renaissance at Colony Park and The Township at Colony Park.
The Meridian at Fondren Case:
The firm represented SKD Development, LLC, the developer of The Meridian at Fondren, a mixed-use facility on the north side of Lakeland Drive, across from the University of Mississippi Medical Center, in overcoming obstacles that might have thwarted the development. The firm was able to eliminate existing restrictive covenants and to deal with unusual zoning problems resulting from the fact that the subject property was under the control of the Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning.
The Continental Tire Company Plant Case:
The firm played an important role in the recent decision of Continental Tire Company to locate a $1.4 billion plant in the area north of Interstate Highway 20 and west of Norrell Road near the City of Clinton. Representing residential homeowners in the area, the firm negotiated appropriate protective covenants protecting the homeowners. The rezoning of the 915 acres comprising the plant site to a classification of I-2 Heavy Industrial District was made subject to the condition that protective covenants negotiated by the firm on behalf of the residential homeowners be placed on the subject property.
The Colonial Country Club Property Case:
After the 153-acre Colonial Country Club, located along Old Canton Road in northeast Jackson, closed in 2014, the firm represented the developers who ultimately purchased the property. The firm secured the rezoning of the property to a classification of Traditional Neighborhood District, a mixed-use classification combining both commercial and residential development under one Master Plan. The Master Plan envisions 638 residential units of various types, with the total development to cost approximately $250 million. The new development, to be known as Colonial Highlands, should revitalize the Old Canton Road corridor.
IN RECENT YEARS
During the past few years, the firm has successfully represented clients in various jurisdictions in securing the rezoning of property for major developments. The firm secured approval from the City of Flowood for the construction of a new Wright & Ferguson Funeral Home, secured approval from the Rankin County Board of Supervisors for the construction of both a skilled nursing home and a major residential subdivision, secured rezoning from the City of Starkville for a wireless communications tower, secured approval from the Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the City of Ridgeland to create a zoning overlay district allowing new uses at Renaissance at Colony Park, secured rezoning from the Madison County Board of Supervisors so that MMC Materials, Inc., could construct a new corporate headquarters/concrete plant in Madison County, secured approval from the Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the City of Canton of rezoning and other relief to enable Key Constructors, LLC, a major construction company, to relocate its corporate headquarters and other facilities to the City of Canton, secured industrial rezoning from the Jackson City Council for land along the Highway 80 Corridor, and secured approval from the Madison County Board of Supervisors, over heavy neighborhood opposition, to rezone tracts for major residential subdivision development.
In recent years, the firm has also represented homeowners associations for both the Barrington high-rise condominium and for Eastbrooke condominiums in Jackson and the homeowners association for Browning Creek development in Oktibbeha County in updating, amending, and restating their respective corporate documents.