Wal Mart Project In Judge's Hands

The original Wal Mart plan was for developers to buy the President's golf course, close it, and turn part of it into a retail destination.

In court, attorneys tried to explain why Biloxi's decision to deny the project should be overturned.

According to Judge Kosta Vlahos, the issue that will ultimately decide the fate of the President Broadwater Golf Club is simple. Has the character of the neighborhood along Pass Road and Beauvoir Road changed enough to let a Wal Mart Supercenter take over these fairways and greens?

Ron Peresich represented Biloxi at an appeal hearing.

"That's the legal standard," he said. The developers' burden "is to show that since the zoning of the property, that there has been a change, a substantial change in the character of the neighborhood. And they didn't do that."

That's why last fall, the Biloxi City Council rejected the Wal Mart development. Councilmen didn't feel the character of the neighborhood around the President Broadwater Golf Club had changed. In court, the developers' attorney told Judge Vlahos that decision was a mistake.

Tom Vaughn represented the developers.

"The best evidence of the change of the neighborhood is when you go look at the neighborhood," he said. "Traffic count of 33,000 cars on Pass Road at that point. It rivals the area in front of Beau Rivage."

Judge Vlahos said he couldn't rule whether the Broadwater golf course was a good place for a Wal Mart. He could only determine if Biloxi had a legal right to deny a zoning change for the golf course property.

Judge Vlahos said his ruling on the golf course zoning case would be released sometime before next Wednesday.