Taylor Concerned With Portofino Condos

'Portofino,' that's the name of the new condominium project stirring some controversy in Biloxi. A New Orleans developer wants to build two, 13 story towers on the site of the Slippery Sam's Water Park on the Biloxi Strip. But, congressman Gene Taylor doesn't think this is such a good idea.

Tuesay, a representative from Taylor's Gulfport office read a letter, from the congressman, addressing encroachment issues to Keesler Air Force Base.

Congressman Taylor says that unregulated growth can severely restrict the base's ability to generate and sustain combat power, and that encroachment is a key element used to determine which bases survive and which close.

Developers want a unobstructed view to the sea for their towers. Tuesday, all the cloud cover kept visibility low, but on a clear day, with the sun shining, future residents will be able to look out their windows and gaze for miles.

It's the height of those future towers that has some worried. Bill Felder addressed the Biloxi council with a message from Congressman Taylor about the development.

"With another BRAC round a little more than two years away, we must be careful to ensure that any future development neither jeopardizes nor is perceived to harm the long term missions of our military installations," Congressman Taylor's representative Bill Felder read.

Keesler military base provides about 1.4 billion dollars every year to our local economy.

"Encroachment interferes with military readiness and can have the effect of de-valuing an installation to the point that it may become a prime candidate for closure in 2005," Felder read from Taylor's letter.

One local consultant with the project says Taylor concern is unwarranted.

"I have a great deal of respect for Gene Taylor, and he certainly should be concerned when something threatens Keesler, we all should, this does not," Portofino consultant Cliff Kirkland said.

Kirkland says the main problem is mis-information, and all the attention has made things worse.

"I really am getting fed up with listening to our local media report that we are allowing encroachment on Keesler we have never done that," Biloxi Ward 6 Alderman Tom Wall said.

"This project as Mr. Wall pointed out does not threaten Keesler it is not in the path of the runway," Kirkland said.

Three Keesler commanders and the FAA says the towers will not interfere with Keesler flights.  The council did approve this plan two years ago, but it expired because construction did not begin.  The council is expected to vote on this matter again, on December 16.