For the last five years, Jennifer Diaz has run an east Biloxi bed and breakfast. Green Oaks has a canopy of live oak trees, and a view of the Mississippi Sound. It's provided a breathtaking backdrop for an assortment of weddings and receptions. "When people think of Mississippi, or they think of the gulf coast," said Diaz, "they think of my house."
Diaz described Green Oaks as a comfortable place for guests who want to experience southern hospitality. "They come and stay with me because I can tell them and show them where to go in the community," she said.
On Comfort Place, some neighbors right behind Green Oaks contend that the bed and breakfast is anything but a comfortable place for them, especially when the B&B hosts weddings and receptions. Wayne Hengen is their attorney. "It's in a residential district," Hengen said. "But it's evolved into a commercial property."
At a bed and breakfast public hearing, Hengen said that's not what Biloxi intended Green Oaks to become. So he asked the city council to adopt a new, more restrictive bed and breakfast ordinance. "You've got a very historic neighborhood here that could wind up having commercialism creep in from a residential property called Green Oaks," the attorney said.
Diaz disagreed. She said if the city adopted the language in the bed and breakfast ordinance proposal, "I will essentially have to close my doors."
The Biloxi Planning Commission came up with a draft of potential bed and breakfast regulations. The biggest change prohibits commercial activities -- like weddings -- at B&B's that are in residential zoning districts. Green Oaks fits that description.
During the public hearing, Biloxi councilman Jim Compton said he's not sure the planning commission's draft report is the right way to go. He said, "If we're going to have these special events, we need a very clear and specific set of rules, hours of operation, types of bands, those kinds of things."
That's what the city council must determine -- whether it should ban all Green Oaks weddings, or come up with a compromise that limits when outdoor activities can be held under the B&Bs canopy of live oak trees.
A vote on the bed and breakfast issue won't be taken until the middle of December.