The Biloxi city council Tuesday refused to reconsider a rezoning request by the developer of a controversial Wal Mart project. The developer sweetened the deal by throwing in a golf course, but it wasn't enough to convince city council members.
The major change involved the Broadwater golf course and a plan to donate the golf course to the city. But the request to reconsider the revised Wal Mart project failed on a tie vote, three to three. It needed at least four votes to succeed.
Saving the golf course was a key issue, but clearly not the only concern. Worries about increasing traffic have also been an issue.
The developer wanted council members to reconsider last week's unanimous "no" vote on the rezoning and send the revised project back to the planning commission. A divided council refused.
"And so today, we bring this up for a reconsideration," said Ward 5 council member, Mike Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick was confident he had the four votes required to send the project back to the planning commission. That was before the meeting. Despite the developer agreeing to donate a golf course to Biloxi, that wasn't enough.
"The problem is not the city's mission to save a golf course. It's the city's job to be sure that traffic access and traffic capacity is sufficient to handle traffic generated by Super Wal Mart," said council president, Jim Compton.
The expected traffic increase has been an ongoing concern. And while the latest plan involved donating a golf course, it didn't include the previous provision of the developer funding an east-west roadway to help handle the traffic.
The city council president urged the council to stand by its earlier decision.
"You've got a bunch of smoke and mirrors. That you might have this, you might have that. You've talked to that, talked to this. You don't have anything. You can't sign anything right now promising a golf course will be donated to the city, can you?", said Compton.
Project attorney, Michael Cavanaugh, responded.
"Donating a golf course has never been a zoning standard. Y'all rezone property all the time. And I challenge you to tell me one that has been required to donate millions of dollars to the public as a standard before you'll rezone property," he countered.
With Tom Wall absent, the vote was evenly divided, three to three. It needed four votes for reconsideration.
The developer was once again disappointed.
"I just don't understand when we offered everything and the city, the council still feels that it's not adequate. So, we don't know," said Daniel Chang.
Chang doesn't know what he'll do next. He says he'll have to think about it. Any revised Wal Mart project will have to start the whole process over. That means a new application, public hearing and planning commission consideration.