State Official Admits Land is Not Necessary for Nissan Project

Matt Powers
Matt Powers · September 24, 2001

Washington, D.C.-The Archie family from Canton, Mississippi, heads back to the Madison County Courthouse on Tuesday, September 25, 2001, to challenge the State of Mississippi’s taking of their land. The court hearing will take place at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, September 25, at the Madison County Circuit Court Building at 128 W. North Street in Canton, Mississippi.

The State of Mississippi is abusing its eminent domain authority by taking the land of Madison County property owners not for a public use, but at the behest of a private company—Nissan Motor Co.—for its private use. The State wants to throw these people, who have owned their property for generations, out of their homes and off their land. The property owners, with the help of the Institute for Justice and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, are fighting back.

A state official recently admitted in The New York Times that the Archie’s land is not necessary for the Nissan project, but that his office is pursuing the taking to save face for the State. The Times reported on September 10, 2001, “[E]ven though the [Archie] family owns just 23 acres of the land sought for the [Nissan] project, officials at the state’s economic development agency said they must seize those acres because of a larger principle: the need to demonstrate to businesses around the country that they are utterly serious about attracting big corporate investments.” The New York Times quoted James C. Burns Jr., the executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, when he said, “It’s not that Nissan is going to leave if we don’t get that land. What’s important is the message it would send to other companies if we are unable to do what we said we would do. If you make a promise to a company like Nissan, you have to be able to follow through.”

“State officials take an oath to protect the constitutional rights of individuals like the Archies, but instead what we’re seeing in Mississippi is government by the highest bidder,” Bullock said. “This naked abuse of government power must be stopped.”

In July 2001, Judge William Agin ruled that the State could use “quick-take” eminent domain (which allows the State to gain immediate entry to land for property that will be used for roadways) against the Archies’ properties but not other portions of the project. The State now seeks to “quick-take” the entire one-acre parcel of property owned by Lonzo Archie, including his home, and approximately five acres of Andrew Archie’s property to build the so-called South Connector road for the project. Another family challenging eminent domain for the Nissan project is unaffected by the road plan.

“The dirty little secret of the State’s road plan is that the South Connector road connects to nothing. It is a road to nowhere,” said Scott Bullock, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, which represents the Archie family. Under the proposed road plans, the South Connector road cuts across the Archie property from Highway 55 and then ends in a cul-de-sac without connecting to any other roadway. And while this road may technically be open to the public, it will be used almost exclusively by Nissan and its suppliers.

Bullock noted that Nissan could still have access to the proposed road without involving the destruction of any homes. “There is simply no need for the State to take the Archies’ land. The road that leads into the Nissan plant connects with the proposed connector road before it gets to the Archie property,” Bullock said.

“The State’s road plan is just another attempted land-grab to benefit Nissan at the expense of these property owners and the Mississippi Constitution.” Bullock concluded.

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