Lines drawn over waterfront rezoning effort in Biloxi

Lines drawn over waterfront rezoning effort in Biloxi

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The line between the city of Biloxi and the secretary of state's office has been drawn in the sand next to Margaritaville.

Both sides say they want the best for Biloxi and the Coast in a brewing battle over rezoning waterfront land that would allow more family entertainment smack in between casino property.

"What we're trying to encourage by this zoning change is to place more land in the category of non-casino waterfront, family oriented attraction land use," said Gerald Blessey, special counsel for the City of Biloxi at a Thursday afternoon Biloxi Planning Commission meeting.

City councilman Kenny Glavan says he would recuse himself on a vote by the council to make his case.

"I'll leave you with these three words: multi-dimensional experience," Glavan said. "That's important. Right now, we're almost one dimensional in the experience you have on the Mississippi Gulf Coast."

City officials say the casino industry is flat, and the Margaritaville expansion represents a new type of visitor and even more money.

However, the Secretary of State's office says no zoning change is necessary for family entertainment as long as the price is right on leases.

"You don't have to rezone in order to allow that to happen," said Jonathan Dyal, attorney representing the Secretary of State's office. "Rezoning is a drastic step. You're lowering it from the best and highest use to something that's lesser."

The Biloxi Planning Commission had decided the issue earlier, but Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann objected because his office didn't get prior notice. The rezoning decision has been postponed until its next meeting on November 3.

Those on the front lines of the family entertainment industry in Biloxi say that what happens with Margaritaville's rezoning will be a big statement as to the value the city puts on family entertainment.

"I think the Coast as a whole needs to send a message that we're open for business, and specifically family entertainment type business," said Brandon Woolridge, owner of Big Play Entertainment Center in Biloxi.

Woolridge adds that there is now a void in his kind of business.

"The goal of trying to get families to stay longer will only be achieved by adding additional family entertainment," Woolridge said. "For us in the hotel business and restaurant business, the only way to grow those markets is to grow the family entertainment market."

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