Proposed development upsets Woolmarket residents

WOOLMARKET, MS (WLOX) - By Elizabeth Vowell – email

WOOLMARKET, MS (WLOX) - A proposed housing development aiming to establish in Woolmarket has its residents on edge and at odds with the Biloxi city council.

"It will destroy what we have. It will destroy the image of the Woolmarket area," said Woolmarket resident Nathan Birdwell.

What concerns Birdwell is a proposed development called Hidden Springs. The new single-family housing development is looking place 420 houses on 166 acres.

The Biloxi City Council approved a rezoning of the Woolmarket area last Thursday. That rezoning allows for the development. However, the proposed housing and rezoning is not well received by residents.

In a neighborhood where the yards are vast and houses are far between, residents feel the development that will squeeze in so many houses in a relatively small space is out of place.

"All the lots around here are two or three acre lots, and to have quarter acre lots or less in this area is unthinkable," said Birdwell.

Other residents like Jennifer McRight are worried that already crowded schools would become overwhelmed with new children. There are also concerns that the narrow, crooked roads won't be able to handle the extra traffic. The proposed development only has two entrances that sit about a mile apart, bordering the Woodlands Drive neighborhood.

"These roads are prescription roads with no easement. Our roads are not suited for the increased traffic flow," said McRight.

However, Biloxi Community Development said Hidden Springs would be a community to itself.  The design calls for buffer zones to separate the development from surrounding neighborhoods. The proposed lots increase in size the closer they are to the buffer zone.  Because of the varying sizes and buffers, Biloxi officials say neighbors will not be disturbed.

Biloxi Community Development Director Jerry Creel also said the city will address all and any concerns as they arise.

"As development occurs, the school system I'm sure will look at the school situation up there to see if they need to add on or provide additional classrooms," said Creel. "We'll take a look at the roadways to see if turn lanes need to be put in."

According to Creel, city growth and post Katrina codes are pushing residents north. He sees the Hidden Springs development as an opportunity for families to resettle and rebuild in an area more accommodating than the areas in east Biloxi that are strained by high insurance.

"This development provides affordable residential housing that's in a high, dry section of the city," said Creel.

Creel also reminds residents that the development is actually an improvement on a previous proposal, and incorporates several suggestions from neighbors gathered from town meetings.

Creel also addressed concerns about the lack of zoning restrictions and covenants, saying those will be established once the development is approved.

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