Permit Change For New Casino Gets Mixed Reviews

Developers of the MFT Casino Corporation want to turn the property near Keegan Bayou off Caillavet Street from a small bayou to an elaborate casino resort.

To do that, they'll need a permit change.

Some supporters see it as a change for the better.

"It has very positive economic benefits for Biloxi and the entire Gulf Coast. Why does it help us? It creates jobs," People's Bank president Chevis Swetman said.

"This project would greatly impact our Gulf Coast tourism industry providing 600 suites, 350 additional rooms, 75, 000 square feet of exhibit space, and a very large bowling alley that will attract new visitors," Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum and Convention Center director Bill Holmes said.

"Within the 18 months of the time that they basically open this, we'll be boarding basically 95,000 more passengers a year. That's an exciting opportunity for us. That's why we're investing today 15 million dollars in terminal expense because we know these kinds of projects are coming," Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport executive director Bruce Frallic said.

Others say 'no' to the permit change, citing everything from moral rights to the legality of the project.

"Rezoning this property as water front, I believe, is unfair to the people across the street, that is on the east side of Caillavet Street, who renegotiated in good faith with the city for their properties based on the idea that it would be a commercial zone. And they wake up the next day and they're across the street from a waterfront property," Mike Hutter said.

"Keegan's Bayou is a general use area and there is overall no public interest or overwhelming need to change this designation to a commercial district. There are alternative sites still available," Nonnie Debardeleben said.

"Are they dredging and excavating public lands or are they dredging and excavating private lands? You can't do both. Someone has got to decide. And if this agency doesn't have the guts to do it, and the Secretary of State doesn't have the guts to do it, then who's gonna stand up for the public?" Terese Collins asked.

DMR will take all of the opinions under consideration before presenting its recommendation before the Commission of Marine Resources. The commission will decide whether to grant or deny the change.