Biloxi cottage dwellers may get an extension to secure their homes

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A snag may force Biloxi to extend its deadline for MEMA cottages to be set on permanent foundations.  The snag has to do with the paperwork about 70 MEMA cottage dwellers must fill out to make their cottages permanent homes.

Right now, Biloxi's MEMA cottage ordinance requires those people to finish their foundations by Friday.  But city building officials are quickly realizing the May 1 deadline is not realistic.

Lillian David lives in a MEMA cottage.

"I love it," the 90 year old Biloxian said.  "It's just exactly what I planned on building."

David's building plans changed when Biloxi changed its rules.  She no longer had to build a shotgun style home, because the Biloxi City Council was no longer forcing her out of her temporary MEMA cottage.

"It's all about putting people in homes," Bill Stallworth said.

Stallworth's ward is where a large percentage of Biloxi's MEMA cottages will become a permanent part of the city.

"The importance is to allow people the opportunity to really make these cottages a permanent home," he said.

The only catch was that Biloxi's MEMA cottage dwellers had to go through a planning commission public hearing.  And then they had to complete a permanent engineered foundation on their properties.  Both of those had to be done by May 1.  However, for a variety of reasons, community development director Jerry Creel said the May 1 deadline became impossible to meet.

"We were trying to make sure that everything was in place before hurricane season started," said Creel.  "I think it was an unrealistic deadline."

So on Tuesday, the city council will consider an amendment to the cottage ordinance.  Up to 70 cottage dwellers may get another two months to get a letter from MEMA, fill out city paperwork, have a public hearing, and then build their permanent foundations.

"I wasn't worried about the deadline," David said.  "I felt like they were going to extend it.  I knew they weren't going to just throw me out.  At least that's what I thought."'

Six cottages in commercial parks have received the proper permits to become permanent fixtures in the city.

However, at the moment, Biloxi has just four private property cases that are scheduled to be presented to the city's planning commission.  And according to the community development office, seven other requests to make the cottages permanent homes are in the early stages of the approval process.

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