Gulfport Resident Questions Condo Variances

Jim Gillis knows his adopted Gulfport home is becoming a "booming area that's just waking up." Later this year, Gillis expects to wipe his sleepy eyes, and see a vastly different view outside his bedroom window.

Caribbean Dream has engineering plans to develop a four acre property between Texas Avenue and Arkansas Avenue. Gillis lives in the small condo complex across the street.

"As far as the condo goes, we are not opposed, I mean we think it's a good idea," he said.

What Gillis questions is how developers got the necessary variances, so a 13 story condo tower and a six story garage could replace the brush between Texas Avenue and Arkansas Avenue near the beachfront.

"I mean, how can you go from 45 feet to 168 feet?," he asked.

The Gulfport Planning Commission approved a height variance for the project, just like city codes allow. Gillis said he didn't attend the December meeting, and neither did members of his condo association, because they didn't know about it.

The former Minnesota native says neighboring towns seem to be taking the proper approach to new condo development.

"I think that Pass Christian and Long Beach are doing the right thing," he said.

Those cities have received similar condo designs and variance requests. But, they're taking more time to develop a strict code for all their requests.

George Carbo is Gulfport's Urban Development Director.

"We're making sure that we don't ruin the environment or the neighborhood in Gulfport along with the character of the city," Carbo said.

In Caribbean Dream's case, developers agreed to reduce their tower to 13 stories and 241 units. Carbo admitted that 241 units seemed like a lot.

"This is an awful lot of density," he said. "Because this is a resort condominium, we treat it like a hotel, where we don't have density limits."

Carbo compared the Caribbean Dream to Grand Casino's hotel tower, where limits weren't placed on the number of rooms it could have.

Gillis is a bit uneasy with those numbers. Yet his neighbors actually looking forward to a condo developer clearing out the messy brush outside their bedroom windows.

"In a way we are," he said, "because this area right here becomes kind of a trash collecting place."

The Caribbean Dream condo tower could mean $500,000 a year in property taxes for Gulfport. Developers should have their final permits in May. Condo construction should begin right after that.

Gulfport has five condo towers either under construction or on planning boards. It also has three apartment complexes that are being converted into condominiums.