Fate of $450 million Gulfport development projects in the hands of state lawmakers

Fate of $450 million Gulfport development projects in the hands of state lawmakers

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Development officials and city leaders in Gulfport are finally on the same page over big project authority.

But, the fate of $450 million in development projects is now in the hands of lawmakers who will vote on the bill during convention weekend. 

A special Gulfport City Council meeting called on Thursday was quick, but will have long-term implications. The council approved an update to a previous legislative bill it approved that clarifies the city's authority over development decisions made by the Gulfport Redevelopment Commission.

The update was requested by Councilman Ricky Dombrowski.

"We hope that this sends clarity to the Legislature that we are still 7-0, and that we still want to move forward," said Dombrowski.

The Gulfport Redevelopment Commission began in 2008 under a state law that allowed it to do long-term leasing to improve blighted areas in the city. But a recent state Supreme Court case involving a similar commission in Tupelo created some confusion.

To be proactive, legislation was created to re-establish the GRC's ability to do several specific projects. Included in the bill were the current developments for Centennial Plaza, as well as the new aquarium along with a new hotel and a $140 million casino project.

GRC attorney Steve Hendrix is optimistic.

"It actually provides a path for all the projects to move forward through this next year," Hendrix said. "I expect it will pass. It should pass without any issue."

However, the bill has left Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes worried.

"If the Legislature does not pass this as the city council has just adopted it, it runs the risk of putting $450 million of development projects in Gulfport in question," Hewes said.

Hewe's is also worried about the possibility that one of the projects could be removed in the process to get the entire bill passed.

"That is being discussed, and that would be problematic for the projects. It would have a horrible domino effect, if one is singled out over any of the others," the mayor added. 

City officials have asked Rep. Richard Bennett and Sen. Sean Tindell to oversee the passage.

The council members hope to address amendments to the GRC's bylaws at the next council meeting.

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