Is Smart Code still a smart move in Gulfport? - - The News for South Mississippi

Is Smart Code still a smart move in Gulfport?

By Krystal Allan – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - At one time, at least 20 businesses sat along 16th Street in Gulfport.  But now, according to City Council President Ricky Dombrowski, only two businesses have returned.  One of the buildings houses a law firm, owned and operated by Tom Teel.  

"He built back because he really, really wanted to be back on this location," Dombrowski said. "But he had a lot of hurdles, and it cost him a lot more to build under smart code."

It's not just businesses, apartments and homes also sit on 16th Street.  Dombrowski said he thinks smart code could be one of the hurdles hindering development on the street, as well as other areas on the east side of town.

Smart code, in part, seeks to create more walkable communities. It calls for more sidewalks, as well as parallel parking in front of buildings with most of the parking in the back.  Dombrowski said that poses some challenges on 16th Street because it's so narrow. 

"The other issue is there are no alleys for back parking, so they'd have to ask for variances."

Under smart code, buildings also sit closer to the street for aesthetic appeal.  On 16th Street, another issue involves the trees and what to do with them.  The city is trying to save the trees left standing after Hurricane Katrina.  But the buildings would have to be built, in some cases, where the trees now stand.      

"Most of the [pre-Katrina] businesses were set back off of the street and the trees that have grown up over the years were the front lawns," Dombrowski said.

The councilman said in some areas like the west side of town, which worked on a smart code proposal for nearly two years, smart code works.  But, it's not a one-size fits all solution.

"It just doesn't work in areas already partially constructed and the streets aren't there for the infrastructure," Dombrowski said.

The city's planning board is set to discuss the issue Thursday at 4:30 p.m. 

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