Saucier Residents Fight Proposed New Neighbor

There's strong division in Saucier over the future of 500 acres of timber land.

Harrison County's Development Commission is eyeing the property for a new industrial park. Neighboring land owners call the project an unwanted intrusion that may ruin their quality of life.

"So, that land they're talking about, it's where that timber is right yonder. That's where it starts," said James Hancock, as he showed a visiting reporter the nearby land in question.

The proposed site for the industrial park is just across the field from James and Mary Hancock's home of twenty plus years.

The family fears rezoning the former International Paper land from agricultural to general industrial would invite all sorts of unwanted possibilities.

"Including a garbage dump, chemical plants, medical waste burning. Anything that could damage in the future, our way of life. I'm not going to sit down and take it," Mary Hancock told the board of supervisors at Monday's meeting.

And they're not alone in sharing that message with the board.

Ava Coleman bought some land in Saucier, hoping to retire there.

"I plead with y'all. I beg with y'all to look further north before this turns into a terrible thing up in that community with everyone fighting and arguing amongst themselves," Coleman told the board.

Supporters say the site is well suited for economic development and the jobs that would mean.

Michael Olivier is executive director of the Harrison County Development Commission.

"It is our hope that the residents will know that we're trying to better the lives for everyone, not only their prospects for the future, but also for the entire county and the coast," he said.

"We have the report from Brown and Mitchell which identifies this as a potential site for future industrial park. And again, that was based on proximity to Highway 49, new Highway 67 and the rail service," explained deputy commission director, Kim Compton.

Both sides will have to wait for the board's decision. Supervisors took the issue under advisement until later this month.

The board will likely vote on the controversy in three weeks, at the May 24th meeting.

The planning commission recommends the board approve the rezoning request to allow the industrial park development.