OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Two commercial buildings that have been a source of controversy for years at the Ocean Springs harbor may soon be gone. The Department of Marine Resources will take bids next week on demolishing the Harbor Landing Restaurant and the adjacent dry boat storage facility.
The businesses were purchased with federal grant money with the objective of turning the land into green space. They were in operation before Hurricane Katrina, but many people who live near the harbor never liked them, saying they violated zoning ordinances at the harbor.
Bruce Duckett is one of them. He heads up the group called Friends of the Ocean Springs harbor.
"We're delighted to see the thing come down and return to green space and more public use," Duckett said.
Even though parking is a problem at the harbor, the cleared land cannot be used for that purpose under federal regulations. Something else could happen though, according to Duckett.
"I do think ultimately the place will be a beautiful asset for Ocean Springs. It can be a park, it can be a lot of things that the public will enjoy."
Not everyone agrees. Frank Parker is a shrimper who works out of the harbor.
"I actually thought they were kind of great because it brought more tourists down here and things like that," Parker recalled. "People coming in from fishing and you had a place to eat and get drinks and things like that, and it was relatively quiet around here."
Losing the businesses also concerns city officials, like Alderman Greg Denyer.
"We had learned to live with them down here at the harbor and I think they did a good job of policing themselves. And that's 186 boaters that don't have a place to put their boats now, so now we have a large increase in trailer traffic that we didn't have before," Denyer explained.
When the buildings are gone, that's going to leave a lot of vacant space at the Ocean Springs harbor. Something else that will be left vacant is the city's bank account.
"We have a significant tax decrease as a result of this," Denyer said. "You take any of these properties off the tax rolls, about $26,000 to $35,000 a year depending on the restaurant and how it did."
If the DMR accepts a bid at next week's meeting, demolition could begin soon after that and be finished by the end of the year.