Gautier cottage village denied by city council

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Neighbors say when FEMA rolled into this area of Hickory Hills, it wasn't just trailers that showed up.

"We had riots out here, we had theft, we had burglary," said area resident Kristy Heizer.  "You couldn't even get in your car at night and run to the gas station. It was awful."

Heizer said the trouble is subsiding as FEMA cottages are gradually carted out of the neighborhood.  Now the area has 185 trailers, and developers own 85 vacant lots.  They want to acquire MEMA cottages to put a permanent rental village in the area.

Heizer doesn't want to go through the same trouble again, but she's scared it could happen soon if the cottages move in.  She's also scared of what the possible cottage village could do to her property value.

"This area is always well known, and Hickory Hills area, as hardworking families," Heizer said.  "And that's what we want to continue it to be. With what's here now, and with MEMA trying to come in, it's just going to bring it as a low income area."

Her neighbor Latonya McCovery agrees.

"I think it would be more respectful to the homeowners in the area to continue to have someone that's working hard for what they have, and have respect for the area," she said.

Hickory Hills, L.L.C. is trying to get permission from the city to put cottages there.  The area is zoned for permanent housing, as well as mobile homes.

"They teamed with the local nonprofit which is Mercy Housing to acquire MEMA cottages to place on their lots," said Donovan Scruggs, spokesman for Hickory Hills, L.L.C.  "Their feeling was that MS cottages were far superior to the manufactured homes. And some developers in Ocean Springs, we thought it could really enhance the area."

Scruggs appealed Tuesday night to the Gautier City Council, asking them to overturn a rejection of permission from the planning commission.  His appeal met some fiery opposition.

"I don't feel that that's the best way to build a family neighborhood," said one opponent.  "That's my opinion."

The city council also denied the request with a five to one vote.

"Our proposal would actually enhance that area," Scruggs said.  "And while many people don't believe that and many people say it would not, it would.  And it's very unfortunate that the council sided with the neighbors."

Scruggs said that if the cottage village doesn't take shape, the developers have another option.

"The only or most practical manner for us to occupy those lots is with manufactured homes," said Scruggs.  "It's unfortunate, but it's our best option."

Scruggs said the developers had teamed up with a management company to make sure the cottage village was properly maintained.

"We will probably not put that kind of effort into manufactured homes because manufactured homes do not have the same longevity, the same increase in values that you'll find in stick built homes or modulars," he said about the possibility of a mobile home development.

Scruggs said at the meeting the developers have not received confirmation they could purchase the cottages from MEMA to carry out the project. He added that he's not sure what the next step will be for Hickory Hills, L.L.C.

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