Biloxi votes against short-term rentals until public hearing can be held

Biloxi votes against short-term rentals until public hearing can be held

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Biloxi City Council voted Tuesday night to temporarily deny a short-term rental application and hold off on others until a public hearing can be held.

The meeting was lively. The council chambers were a house divided.

On one side sat people who oppose the short-term rental idea, many of them being residents of Cypress Cove Condos. On the other side of the room sat a handful of people who own property at Cypress Cove, for the purpose of short-term rentals.

Once city council president Felix Gines (Ward 2) opened the floor to public comments, at least a dozen people from both sides came up to present their arguments before the council.

Those against it said the short-term renters do not care about the people who permanently live on the property.

“Since we’ve had the short-term rentals, it has been a disaster," said Cypress Cove resident Sandy Johengen. “One of the short-term rentals had garbage all over and cigarette butts all over the ground.”

Those in favor argued that by offering short-term rentals they are making business investments in the community that will be good for tourism, saying if their applications got denied, it would be a financial disaster for some.

"This makes me very anxious and very emotional," said one woman. "We have a son to take care of and by denying this permit, we will be financially hurting."

Almost ten minutes passed until the last person addressed the council. Jerry Creel, the city’s development director, stepped up to the podium to distinguish the difference in the two types of districts which allow for certain types of renting, RM-20 (Medium-Density Multiple-Family Residential) and RM-30 (High-Density, Multifamily Residential).

Ultimately it came down to a council vote. Council members Dixie Newman (Ward 3) and Robert Deming III (Ward 4) abstained from voting, saying they did not hear enough facts and information to make a decision.

The other members voted in favor of denying the short-term rental application temporarily and postponing others until a public hearing can be held.

As people shuffled out of the room, their emotions were clear.

“We are happy about it, extremely happy," said Johengen. “We just wish it were permanent.”

“We are a little happy about this right now,” said Cypress Cove resident James Cascio. “We hope it just stays. This is our home this is where we live."

“I’m optimistic that the two council members did decide to at least address the confusing process of the RM20 and RM30 districts with the conditional use,” said Benjamin Simms, a property owner who supports short-term rentals.

A date for a public hearing on the issue hasn’t yet been set.

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