Long Beach Condo Projects Spark Debate

Developers of high rise condominium projects are taking a serious look at Long Beach.

A half dozen such projects are now in the works for the city, with promises of more plans to follow. And that's raising concerns among residents and city leaders.

Developers see great potential along the spacious waterfront in Long Beach. And while city leaders may welcome the property tax boost, there are also serious questions about things like infrastructure demands and quality of life concerns.

There's a large sign along Highway 90 advertising "Emerald Breeze" condominiums. Such ads are a definite sign of the times among parcels of vacant beach front land in Long Beach. High rise condominiums are coming.

Rod Dickson-Rishel is a Long Beach resident and member of the city planning commission.

"And all of the developers who are out of this area come here and say this is the last undiscovered piece of the northern Gulf of Mexico," he said.

Quality of life issues concern Dickson-Rishel. He worries condo developers may not recognize what makes Long Beach so special.

"They talk about it as if it's just a piece of fruit ripe for the picking. And I had one even say to me that it is inevitable that's what's going to happen to this coastline," he said.

Plans are moving forward for high rise condos at the former Ramada Inn site. Down the road, another motel, torn down long ago, could be home to more condominiums.

"As an architect, I'm definitely pro development. I think that the condominiums offer a great deal of advantages to the coast," said newly elected alderman, Mark Lishen.

He says such development means property taxes. His architecture firm is helping design one of the projects.

"But all of that done in an element of planned growth and smart growth that we can not look back on years down the road and wish we hadn't done what we did," Lishen said.

Some developers have suggested the Mississippi Gulf Coast is destined to become like Destin, Florida with multiple high rise condos scattered along the shoreline. Dickson-Rishel says that possibility should be a concern of everyone.

"We've been a bedroom community. Historically, that's what Long Beach has been. And if we're going to become something else, we need to think carefully about that," he said.

Long Beach aldermen will hold a workshop to discuss condominium concerns. The meeting is Wednesday, October 13th at 5pm in the mayor's office.  The public is welcome.