OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - The City of Ocean Springs received backlash over an ordinance that was recently passed. The ordinance outlined how the city would handle future film and television productions. Monday evening, Mayor Connie Moran vetoed the document in hopes of squelching some of the controversy.
Ocean Springs has recently seen an increase in interest from the film and television industry. To prepare for even more productions in the future, Moran worked with other city leaders to get an ordinance started.
She says the ordinance was drafted by the board of aldermen and then passed before she could fully look over it.
"I heard immediately from the film professionals in the area. They were very unhappy," said Moran.
One of those professionals, Fayr Barkley, says she has been in the industry for almost 40 years. She is now the President of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Independent Film and Television Alliance. From her experience in the industry, Barkley says she knows what productions look for when scouting locations.
"If I were coming from out of state down to Ocean Springs and I read this, I would go somewhere else in a heartbeat," said Barkley.
According to Barkley, the wording was extremely vague and left a lot open for misinterpretation.
"There are things we need to do to really specify the language in this so that people are not going to misinterpret it. Gossip isn't going to start," said Barkley. "People aren't going to think I can't go to the park with my kids with my cell phone. A cop might stop me and ask me if I'm filming and what I'm planning to do with that film," said Barkley.
She said the ordinance could possibly violate the 1st and 4th amendments, and deter production companies from bringing their business to Ocean Springs. Barkley and the film community made it clear to Moran that something needed to change.
So, Moran temporarily pulled the plug on the document by vetoing the ordinance.
"The veto was really to get everyone to calm down, so we could put it aside and have some opportunity for public input," said Moran.
According to Moran, the last thing she and her fellow city leaders wanted was to push people away from the city.
"Ocean Springs is open for business. We invite film producers here to the city. We want to streamline the process, not stifle it," said Moran.
Some of the complaints about the ordinance included time restrictions, non-defining terms and difficult application requirements. Filmmakers said the language could even be interpreted to mean that a permit was required to film social events, like parties.
Moran hopes to have a revised draft ready to review in a week. Even then, she said the ordinance won't be set in stone, and she invites input from the community.
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