BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Two weeks in a row, Harrison County supervisors have considered controversial dirt pit projects, and in both cases, the board sided with residents opposed to having one in their neighborhood.
Why the sudden increase in dirt pit proposals? It appears there are several explanations.
First, there are some major construction projects on the horizon that will require lots of fill dirt, projects like the port expansion in Gulfport.
Plus, some contractors say there's more demand for foundation dirt than there is available supply right now.
Whatever the reason for planning a dirt pit project, it seems there's always vocal opposition.
"I don't want to overstate the obvious, but residential areas and dirt pits really do not mix well," resident Shane Weekley told Harrison County supervisors at Monday's meeting.
It seems that much is true, wherever the location of the proposed dirt pit.
Neighbors on East Dubuisson Road spoke out against such a project Monday, as did residents along Highway 53 one week ago.
"I've been in business 32 years in Harrison County. And in the last year, I've run out of a place to purchase dirt. And I've attempted a lot of locations to possibly permit a dirt pit. And you'd think it's easy, but it's not," said contractor Kirk Ladner.
"People that own existing dirt pits do not like to sell their dirt. They keep it strictly for their own use," said consulting engineer Bobby Knesal.
Contractor Ladner wanted to build his own dirt pit near the only active dirt pit on East Dubuisson Road.
"That's why the other dirt pits are there, that's just a good source of that type of dirt they use to build foundations and things. And they're few and far between," Knesal explained.
The port expansion project will be needing fill dirt and plenty of it. That's a large reason why contractor Chris Fore proposed a dirt pit off Highway 53.
"Economically, all that dirt can be provided in Harrison County," Fore told county leaders.
In the past two cases, the need for dirt has been trumped by the concerns of neighbors.
"In the total of our little community from East Dubuisson back, we have over 125 homes," said Valerie Malley, who filed the formal appeal of the dirt pit's approval by the planning commission.
Is such a project in the public interest? That's one of the guidelines supervisors consider.
"If we're aware of the existing pits and the kind of acreage you have in there, I think that becomes a public interest," said supervisor Marlin Ladner.
More dirt pit proposals are on the way in Harrison County. Next month, supervisors will consider another new dirt pit project and the proposed expansion of an existing pit.