Coast Cities Want "Smart" Growth

High rise condos, casinos, and a boom in the new housing market are all signs of the remarkable growth that has taken place on the Gulf coast over the past decade. Also growing is concern over what impact development has on our environment. On Tuesday, the largest ever "Smart Growth Conference" took place in Biloxi.

Soon dozens of houses will line these streets of the Indian Trails subdivision. The Harrison County site is one of developer Jim Wooten's latest projects.

"I started out about 27 or 28 years ago," said Wooten. "There have been a lot of changes. A lot more regulations these days."

Over the years, concerns about the environment have led to stricter guidelines for builders. At Tuesday's conference, the message was that development is not at odds with nature but actually dependent on it.

"If we destroy the very things that have attracted people, like ourselves, to this place, they're not going to come. They're going to go somewhere else," Department of Marine Resources director William Walker said.

All around the coast, construction crews are busy working. With more projects on the horizon, many elected officials say it's important to have a sense of direction.

"We want to continue with growth, but we want to go with the right kind of growth. We think it's important to look at what kind of growth we'll be having in the city of Biloxi. We'll be addressing that as new projects come up," Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway said.

Developers are having to pay more attention to protecting wildlife, waterways, and green space. Jim Wooten says that's the way it should be.

"Development is important and everybody has to have new houses. You have to be able to grow and expand, but we also need to be conscious of our surroundings and do what we can to preserve it."

D.M.R. hosted the "Smart Growth Conference." Officials say a bill before Congress would designate South Mississippi as a Natural Heritage Area, which would mean millions of dollars to strengthen our economy and natural resources.