City planners from around state converge on Ocean Springs

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - By Steve Phillips – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Ocean Springs was chosen as the host city for this American Planning Association conference for good reason.

The "City of Discovery" with its quaint downtown, cultural resources and walk-ability is a shining example of how good planning translates into "livable communities."

"Planning is very valuable. There are many cities that actually show the connection of a sound economy and a value of planning," said Mitchell Silver, APA President-elect. "Those cities that are planned quite well and understand the value of planning actually do far better. They're more competitive. They attract business. They have a high quality of life."

The downtown "streetscape" improvement project in Ocean Springs is a development that began with a collection of ideas and visions. The city's planning department helped usher that concept to reality.

"There are many things in trying to get a plan implemented. First of all, it's trying to get the collective thought process working, so people are on the same page. And they're actually coming to some type of consensus. That's what planners are really about," Biloxi Executive Planner Edward Shambra said. "And hopefully once the consensus goes forward, the political side can actually put it into effect."

A session on hazard mitigation planning touched on a subject the coast is most familiar with: Hurricane resistant construction.

The example was given of a high rise hotel with break-out walls on the ground floor.

James Schwab with the American Planning Association said, "And there's the water that moves underneath and back out without hitting a brick wall of resistance. And there's a hotel next door... Bam! Wiped out."

Participants will hear more about Ocean Springs' planning success during a walking tour of the downtown.

Other conference topics include historic preservation, planning laws and using the "arts" in community development.

The convention at the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center wraps up Friday.

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