Portofino Condos started out as two 13-story towers, replacing the Slippery Sam's water slides. Council President Jim Compton says the developer met every requirement, but Compton voted against the condos, saying he's getting conflicting advice.
"The most recent advice came from our congressman, Congressman Taylor and he said if you err, err on the side of caution. I find myself wondering whether we really should or could deny this project, this application, but I'm gonna err on the side of caution and I'm gonna vote against it," says Compton.
In December, Congressman Gene Taylor sent a statement expressing concern about development's impact on Keesler, and he asked the council to carefully consider its decision. Councilman Charles Harrison took Taylor at his word.
"He knows, he's spoken with the joint chiefs of staff. Right there, the general, the congressman, that's good enough for me," Harrison said.
But Ward 6 Councilman Tom Wall, a Portofino supporter, fired back, criticizing Taylor's influence on the vote.
"Congressman Taylor is now running the City of Biloxi and the Biloxi City Council doesn't have the backbone or the spine to do their own work," says Wall.
Developer Ben Favret says he was surprised Taylor nor anyone from Keesler attended the meeting. But Favret says since the project was announced two years ago, he's always believed Keesler's top brass was okay with it.
"I think General Peterson in spite of what was mentioned in the council meeting he actually was in favor of the Portofino. His concern was a bunch of Portofino's and I can understand his concern but as long as you stay below their operating environment I don't think additional development should be a concern," Favret said.
Favret says the council's decision against his project doesn't necessarily mean the end of it. He says he'll consider his options.
Meanwhile, Keesler General Michael Peterson said in a statement that the Portofino meets all FAA requirements. Peterson says he's just concerned that if similar structures are built in the same area, they could impact Keesler's flight operations.