This matter was initiated by a complaint filed under title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134, with the United States Department of Justice (“Department of Justice”) against the City of Jackson, Mississippi. The complaint was received by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, under the authority of title II of the ADA, and its implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 35, Subpart F. The Department of Justice investigated this complaint, and concluded that the City of Jackson violated title II of the ADA by engaging in discriminatory practices in regard to a zoning petition. The complainants – developers who planned to build a mental health crisis intervention center, and who required a parcel of property to be re-zoned from an industrial to a commercial classification – allege that the City of Jackson’s denial of their zoning petition was a violation of the ADA.

The Department of Justice is authorized under title II and its implementing regulations to investigate the allegations of the complaint in this matter, and if possible, to negotiate and secure voluntary compliance agreements. Furthermore, the Attorney General is authorized under 42 U.S.C. § 12133, to bring a civil action to enforce title II of the ADA if the Department of Justice fails to secure voluntary compliance pursuant to Subpart F. In consideration of the terms of this Agreement as set forth below, the Attorney General agrees to not undertake further investigation or to file civil suit in this matter.

The parties to this Agreement are the United States of America and the City of Jackson, Mississippi.

In the interests of avoiding the costs of litigation and securing compliance by voluntary means, the parties hereby agree as follows:

1. The City of Jackson, Mississippi, is a public entity covered by title II of the ADA as defined in the ADA and the Department of Justice's regulation implementing title II. 42 U.S.C. § 12131(1); 28 C.F.R. 35.104. Title II of the ADA prohibits disability discrimination in all activities of state and local government entities. Title II’s general prohibition on discrimination provides that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” 42 U.S.C. § 12132. Zoning decisions, as activities of a public entity, are covered by title II’s non-discrimination mandate.

2. The subject of this Settlement Agreement is the decision of the City Council, in its capacity as a zoning board, to deny a petition (Number 3374) to re-zone a parcel land. The petitioners owned two contiguous parcels of land, one of which was zoned for commercial use, and the other which was zoned for industrial use. The petitioners intended to construct a facility on that property; and to lease it to the Hinds County Mental Health Commission, who intended to operate it as a mental health crisis intervention center. In response to the petitioners’ inquiry as to the appropriate zoning classification for such a facility, the City advised them that the land needed to be zoned commercial because the facility would allow for overnight stays. Thereafter, the developers filed a petition to re-zone the industrial parcel to a commercial classification.

Sometime after the developers filed their petition, the professional staff of the City Planning Board advised the petitioners and the City’s Planning Board that the proposed zoning request was appropriate, and that it was consistent with the City’s master “Future Land Use Plan.” Thereafter, the City’s Planning Board conducted a public hearing on the petition and, after a 7-7 vote, forwarded this matter to the City Council with no recommendation. After the City Council, in its capacity as a zoning board, received the petition, it conducted a series of public hearings at which community opposition to the construction of mental health intervention center was voiced. At these hearings, protracted discussions ensued about persons with mental illness as well as other potential locations for the proposed center. On August 21, 2001, the City Council, as the zoning board, voted to deny the re-zoning petition.

The United States alleges that the City’s zoning decision was discriminatory in violation of title II of the ADA, because the City Council’s decision was based, at least in part, upon discriminatory motives against persons with mental illness. The City does not admit to liability in this matter, and denies that it has engaged in discriminatory practices. The City further denies that it has violated the ADA. But, in order to avoid protracted and expensive litigation, the City has agreed to enter into this Settlement Agreement.

3. Pursuant to this Agreement, the City of Jackson will:

a. By July 17, 2003, offer to pay the petitioners compensatory damages in the amount of $40,000.00.

b. By August 14, 2003, ensure that all of the City’s Planning Board Members and City Council Members undergo training on: a) the Americans with Disabilities Act generally, and its application in the zoning context in particular; and b) the appropriate and lawful criteria to be used in making a zoning decision, considering both Mississippi law and principles of non-discrimination.

c. By no later than August 28, 2003 (and after the training specified in ¶3b has taken place), the City Council will review the zoning petition based upon the original record and will hold a new vote based upon appropriate and lawful criteria. The Department of Justice and the petitioners shall be notified of the City Council’s vote on or before August 28, 2003.

d. By no later than July 31, 2004, 2005, and 2006, provide the undersigned counsel for the Department of Justice with a report listing and explaining the nature and outcome of every zoning petition that directly or indirectly involves persons with disabilities.

4. This Settlement Agreement is a public document. A copy of this document or any information contained in it may be made available to any person. The City of Jackson, Mississippi, or the Department of Justice will provide a copy of this Agreement to any person upon request.

5. The Department of Justice may review compliance with this Agreement at any time. If the Department of Justice believes that this Agreement or any requirement thereof has been violated, it may institute a civil action seeking to enforce this Agreement in an appropriate Federal court, and the City of Jackson agrees not to contest the Court’s jurisdiction of this matter.

6. Failure by the Department of Justice to enforce this entire Agreement, or any provision thereof, with respect to any deadline or any other provision herein, will not be construed as a waiver of its right to enforce other deadlines and provisions of this Agreement.

7. The effective date of this Agreement is the date of the last signature below.

8. This Agreement expires three years from its effective date.

9. This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties on the matters raised herein, and no other statement, promise, or agreement, either written or oral, made by either party or agents of either party, that is not contained in this written Agreement, will be enforceable under its provisions. This Agreement is limited to the matters alleged herein, and it does not purport to remedy any other potential violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act or any other Federal law. This Agreement does not affect the City of Jackson’s continuing responsibility to comply with all aspects of title II of the ADA.

For the City of Jackson: For the United States:

City Attorney

Senior Deputy City Attorney
City Attorney's Office
455 East Capitol Street
P.O Box 17
Jackson, Mississippi 39205-0017

Date       7/16/03      

Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights

L.IRENE BOWEN, Deputy Chief
ALYSSE BASS, Senior Trial Attorney
Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, DC 20530

Date       7/17/03    


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July 25, 2003