The Biloxi City Council voted Tuesday to deny the variances requested by the Portofino LLC which would have allowed construction of a multi-story condominium project on the Biloxi Beach, in vicinity of Keesler's flight path.
Brig Gen Mike Peterson offered the following comments upon learning of the vote:
"The City of Biloxi has been very thorough in developing ordinances which will guide future development along its beach front, while at the same time allowing for safe, unimpeded flight operations at Keesler AFB.
Regularly, the Mayor, City Councilmen, and City Planning Commission members sought out Keesler inputs as they looked to the long term future of this community. Thanks to their efforts, ordinances will soon be in place which address our concerns over building height, dense development, and noise generated by Keesler-based aircraft.
I presume the City Council's vote was based in large part on the careful work already done. Prior to the meeting today, and often in the past, members of Keesler's operational and planning teams discussed the impact of high-rise construction on the Biloxi Beach with Congressman Gene Taylor and with his staff."
It was suggested that Congressman Gene Taylor had requested that Brig Gen Peterson not be present at today's council meeting.
Gen Peterson's response:
"It is a blessing to be represented by a Congressman who is so strongly focused on smart growth for the Mississippi Gulf Coast. When I have spoken with Congressman Gene Taylor and his staff, one clear message repeatedly came through, and that was they were looking for the facts, and for the bottom-line.
In this case, our discussions surrounded the long-term impact of high-rise development on the Biloxi Beach in the vicinity of Keesler's flight path. I was always happy to provide the fact-based information they requested.
My presence at a Biloxi City Council meeting was never discussed, directly or indirectly. The history of the Portofino condominium project is a long one."
We were asked if Brig Gen Peterson ever went on record for or against the Portofino project. Gen Peterson's response:
"This was never about the Portofino condominium project in isolation--it must be considered as the long-term standard for future development on the Biloxi Beach.
Keesler worked closely with the Portofino developer, Mr. Ben Favret, members of the Biloxi City Planning Commission, Biloxi City Councilmen, and the Mayor of Biloxi, Hon A.J. Holloway. Many meetings were hosted at Keesler AFB.
The Portofino developer used the discussions to refine its plans for the development, limiting height of proposed towers to meet FAA guidelines.
At the same time, the City of Biloxi used the discussions to help build its long-term vision for development along the Biloxi Beach.
Based on those discussions, I have stated publicly that the Portofino Condominium project as currently proposed meets all FAA guidelines, and we could adjust current flight patterns to accommodate the local pattern obstruction which would be caused by the Portofino towers.
However, if the Portofino condominiums became the standard, and if multiple Portofino-like structures were built in the same vicinity, it would have a significant impact on future flight operations at Keesler AFB.
Multiple Portofino-like structures would reduce our ability to train and would create an environment in which our pilots would not feel safe to fly.