Biloxi city council reviews new comprehensive plan

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS  (WLOX) - The city of Biloxi has a new "long range vision." City council members on Tuesday reviewed a new 200 page comprehensive plan. It's a framework for the future designed to guide Biloxi for the next 25 years.

The comprehensive plan addresses everything from re-building storm devastated East Biloxi, to managing the expected explosion of commercial growth at the Woolmarket exit.

City planners, working with a consultant from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, spent the past 18 months creating this document and vision.

"We have solicited citizen input at every step of the way. It reflects citizen input into what they'd like to see happen in Biloxi the next 20 to 25 years," community development director Jerry Creel told the city council.

In East Biloxi for example, the plan suggests ways to best rebuild storm devastated neighborhoods.

"Trying to encourage resilient land use and development that capitalizes on the waterfront and interior neighborhoods. Encouraging mixed use and mixed housing types. The key of course is reducing storm vulnerability," said consultant John Beckman.

Downtown Biloxi, the plan recommends, is a place to capitalize on historic architecture and the true character of the city.

For instance, how about a shopping district and "restaurant row" at Rue Magnolia?

"This is an area that has tremendous character that can appeal to visitors," says Beckman.

The plan calls for creating greenways and pedestrian friendly corridors.

"Not only for the quality of life for residents, but also making Biloxi a more attractive destination for an expanded visitor market," said the consultant.

Diversifying Biloxi's economy is among the plan suggestions; it can't be exclusively casino-driven.

"Casino operators told us that. Hotel operators told us that. Gaming can't be the only game in town," said Beckman.

Managing growth in Woolmarket is an issue. That community is poised for a development explosion near the I-10 interchange.

"It's a rural community in a lot of ways as far as the history of it. They like the large lots. But that Woolmarket-67 corridor is going to be a hot commercial development," said administrator David Stahling.

One consistent theme throughout the plan, is an emphasis on preserving what is "truly Biloxi."

"One of the things that came out is the great desire to distinguish Biloxi, visually, from some of your regional-local competitors, like Gulfport. There's a physical environment here that can be built on that's much nicer, and that can help you economically as well as increasing the quality of life," said Beckman.

The reaction from city council members at Tuesday's workshop was generally favorable.

The only public comments came from two Woolmarket residents. One wants tougher zoning restrictions on planned housing developments; the other spoke out against a proposed "adult oriented" business near the I-10 exit.

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