When the State Transportation Department needed some land to widen the Washington Avenue-Highway 90 intersection in Ocean Springs, several business owners agreed to sell some of their properties to MDOT at fair market value. They say at the time, both sides reached a verbal agreement.
Attorney Jim Wright said "We were repeatedly assured that nothing would go up there to impede access".
Chiropractor Dr. John Ciotti said "They told us they were definitely not going to put those barricades up to impede traffic that's going south. Nobody can turn on to this property when they're going south. They assured us that would not happen".
But, it did happen. Construction crews are tearing up the middle section of the road and putting up the concrete barriers.
Ciotti said "We felt like they misled us". Wright said "This is not what we were promised. We are seriously concerned about it destroying our business".
One of Wright's clients agrees. Realtor Terrie Price said she had a hard time getting in and out of the attorney's office. She said "I literally went underneath the Fort Bayou Bridge, through hills, bumps, the boat launch, around by Aunt Jenny's and then, I'm sitting here, waiting to get back on the highway. As a matter of fact, I don't know if I'll use this attorney again".
Across the highway, the owner of Aunt Jenny's and Anthony's Restaurants also worries he'll lose customers because of the barriers. Carl Lizana said "It's morally wrong for them to wipe all of these businesses out, that includes Burger King, the church, everybody, just so they can get people to and from the casinos a little faster".
The business owners say it's too dangerous for drivers to take U-turns, or go under the Fort Bayou Bridge to reach the businesses.
When WLOX-News talked to Transportation Commissioner Wayne Brown, he told us "We did make that verbal agreement with the businesses to leave the barriers out as long as possible. But, we decided we had to put it in, because it's become a safety concern. Vehicles that stop on the highway to turn into the businesses would obstruct traffic and could cause accidents. We regret that the businesses feel they were misled."
The business owners say if things don't work out, there's one route they may have to take. Wright said "We want them to come out and take these barricades down like they promised us. If not, we'll see what happens in court".
The business owners want to know why the state can't put in a turning lane. Commissioner Wayne Brown says MDOT would have to widen the road and the Fort Bayou Bridge, plus, tear down some oak trees. He says that could cost more than a million dollars, which is too expensive.