Long Beach Mayor Worries About Division Over Condos - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

06/03/05

Long Beach Mayor Worries About Division Over Condos

It's the hottest political issue in Long Beach this election year, but you won't find it on the ballot. The discussion about high rise condominiums is creating quite a division in "the friendly city".

Mayor Billy Skellie doesn't have to worry about re-election. He's unopposed this Tuesday. But he is worried about the division over condo development, an issue he fears could hurt the city's image and it's future.

"There will be change. And for a city to survive, there has to be development. And it has to be high end, high quality development," said Mayor Billy Skellie.

Proposed condo projects are the development rage right now. But nowhere on the coast has the issue struck a nerve quite like Long Beach.

"I hate that it might hurt our city in the sense that we're not able to get on the same page or at least get in the middle of the book," said the mayor.

Skellie says city leaders worked hard on an ordinance to regulate condominiums and charge the developers with funding necessary improvements to the city infrastructure. Condo projects will pay for a new fire station and pumper truck.

"It will all be built, like the infrastructure on water and sewer, also on police and fire, will all be accomplished as funds come in from developers. And it's not going to cost the citizens a penny," the mayor explained.

But the issue might cost some Long Beach leaders their spot at city hall. Condos are "the" issue in this year's political races.

Regardless of Tuesday's voting, there will be at least two new faces on the Long Beach board of aldermen. Two incumbent aldermen lost their elections in the primary and three other incumbents face opposition in Tuesday's general election.

It's ironic that Mayor Skellie and city leaders are faced with condo development decisions in this year the city is celebrating its centennial.

The mayor says he welcomes a healthy debate about the issue, but says the divisiveness of this topic may have gotten out of hand.

"It's hurtful. And I think it's going to probably, if it doesn't let up, be a very destructive thing for our community, no matter who's elected," the mayor said.

There are six condominium projects at various stages of approval in Long Beach. The developments range from eight to 16 stories. Those half dozen projects total 716 units.

By Steve Phillips

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