Judge says 'no' to beachfront sidewalk in Ocean Springs - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Judge says 'no' to beachfront sidewalk in Ocean Springs


By Doug Walker – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - With the future of the pedestrian pathway on East Beach in serious doubt, reaction from Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran was swift, and she held nothing back.  

"It's absurd. It is the people's beach," Moran said. "The Secretary of State has addressed this many times in other places. He has maintained that this is public land. The public has utilized the beach, paid for it with a seawall tax every time they go to the pump to buy a gallon of gas."

Not so fast says Buddy Gunn, one of the two property owners who sued the city and the state. He lives in a home on East Beach, and believes the sidewalk is just a bad idea.

"They propose to covering up this beautiful beach with an acre and a half of concrete, 67,000 square feet," Gunn said. "And the court has said it would be irreparable harm for them to go forward because of the eco-system here and also because of the questions of private ownership."

The mayor said the plaintiffs may have succeeded in killing the project altogether.  

"The objective of the plaintiffs was not just to win this case. It was to delay the project so that the funding would be lost."

That may happen if construction doesn't start by next month, and that is not likely.  

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann was surprised by the ruling, but not about what his next move will be.  

"If we were to lose, we would appeal it," Hosemann said.

As for allegations that he simply wants to prevent people from using the beach, Gunn was emphatic.  

"That is absolutely preposterous," Gunn said.  "Mr. Hosemann needs to get out of Jackson, Mississippi and come down here to visit East Beach.  I tried to call him before all this got started up and he didn't return the call.  We, in fact, invite groups to come down." 

Gunn said it all comes down to the city not doing its homework.  

"Before you spend tax money, you first make certain that you're putting it on public property.  They did not do that."

The city plans on joining the Secretary of State in appealing the ruling to the state supreme court. 

A separate legal issue is the actual ownership of the beach, public or private.  Those lawsuits will be heard in Jackson County Chancery Court.  Some could begin as early as next month.

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