BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A proposed land swap at the Ocean Springs Harbor is creating some controversy.
Two years ago, the DMR purchased a large boat shed and vacant restaurant building at the harbor with the intention of tearing down the structures to create green space and additional parking. But those plans may be changing.
"We are appalled that our city politicians are supporting a land swap of some wetlands here in Biloxi," said Ocean Springs resident Bruce Duckett, as he addressed the monthly meeting of the Commission on Marine Resources.
Duckett and three other Ocean Springs residents voiced their concerns to the CMR. They're upset that plans to tear down the large boat storage shed and empty restaurant building at the harbor may be scrapped in favor of a land exchange.
"I'm not in favor of a swap for land in Ocean Springs for Biloxi to continue a boat barn and possible restaurant in Ocean Springs. And would like to see the area used for parking. I think we desperately need parking," said Ocean Springs resident Beth Ashley.
The Biloxi property that's being offered to the DMR adjoins Back Bay and is more desirable for preservation, according to the DMR's executive director.
"Environmentally more pristine and more important. And he wants to swap us for the Harbor Landing property. And he intends to continue to operate that facility as a dry boat storage," said Dr. William Walker.
That prospect is not pleasing to the harbor neighbors who spoke out.
"To me, this land swap flies in the face of the stated plan in the CIAP funding and is extremely disappointing to us. Such a swap in my mind may constitute a breach of the terms of the grant and will certainly create a breach of trust between citizens and the government," said Duckett.
Dr. Walker said attorneys are currently reviewing the details of the proposed land swap.
A decision on whether the deal could move forward could come as soon as a week from now.
Residents who oppose the swap, say they'll continue speaking out against the proposal.
The Ocean Springs residents who spoke out at the CMR meeting say the Ocean Springs Harbor Commission also favors the plan to create more green space and additional parking where the boat storage shed and restaurant building now stand.