OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - The City of Ocean Springs has officially set its sights on 11.6 square miles of county land. The Board of Aldermen unanimously passed an ordinance at their Tuesday night meeting that will begin the process of annexing two plots of land on the west side of Highway 57.
"At this point, the board has an initial annexation area for consideration this [Tuesday] evening," said Mayor Connie Moran. "And there will be ample time to meet with all other agencies and citizens on how it might impact them before we even file in court. So this could be a lengthy process. I just want everyone to know that you will have ample time for input."
The city has pinpointed two areas for annexation consideration. The first lies between Hwy 57 and Fort Bayou, and spans from north of I-10 and south, past the Sunplex Industrial Park.
The second area lies south of Highway 90 along Old Spanish Trail, and includes parts of the Fountainbleu area, as well as the future site of Ocean Springs High School. Moran said the annexation would not include Gulf Park Estates or St. Andrews, and would not affect current school districts.
"The annexation of this area will allow sustained growth to continue in our east corridor," Moran said in a statement. "Ocean Springs has recognized the need to extend the same quality services and infrastructure to residents and businesses just outside our city limits as we do for our current citizens, including city water which has annually received a perfect rating from the state's department of health. We have already initiated extension of water and sewer along Hwy 57 and Ocean Springs Road, and are constructing our new public safety facility on east Hwy 90. We aim to provide ample police and fire protection to our new high school and surrounding development in that area."
Mayor Connie Moran said 1,500 residents live in the affected area.
Jackson County District 5 Supervisor John McKay represents those residents. McKay said he opposes the potential annexation.
"I'm really disappointed they're having to go that far north," McKay said. "I don't believe there's a necessity for them to go as far north as the Preserve Golf Course in Vancleave. I know that's going to alienate people that I represent up there, with the city basically encroaching on Vancleave territory, so to speak."
McKay also said he opposes the city's inclusion of the Sunplex Industrial Park in the territory. McKay said several businesses inside Sunplex are circulating a petition opposing the annexation plans. He said many of the businesses fear having to lay off personnel if taxes increase.
"We had an agreement when I was on the board," said McKay, "That Sunplex would stay in a rural area in the county. Plus, it gives business owners an incentive to locate. We did it as an economic development incentive to keep the taxes as low as possible out there to help businesses thrive."
Moran said Tuesday's meeting is just the first step in a long process of annexation. Moran said she hopes for a friendly annexation. The city expects the initial annexation hearing to being in Spring of 2010.