Keesler Concerned About Growth

Biloxi continues to grow, but at what price? For years talk of the North-South connector has presented potential problems for Keesler Air Force Base, and now a twin-tower condominium project near Keesler that is to be 140-feet high is raising red flags again.

By approving the variance for the project to be built where Slippery Sam's is currently located on Hwy. 90, the council is allowing taller structures in or near Keesler's flight path.

"I don't want to do, and the city of Biloxi doesn't want to do anything to jeopardize Keesler Air Force Base's mission," Biloxi Mayor A. J. Holloway says.

In a letter to the New Orleans group that proposed the condo project, Keesler Base Commander General Ted Mercer explains his concerns about development this way.

"As you can imagine, encroachment is my number one concern regarding development on and around Keesler Air Force Base. Development not only has the potential to jeopardize our flying missions, and potentially the base's future viability, it can also have a major impact on the health and safety of the citizens of the surrounding communities."

Mike Olivier is the director of the Harrison County Development Commission and says, "It's a concern that we have that missions could be lost or that we could have an impact on our ability to attract missions from other bases that might be closed because of growth and congestion."

A land use study done in 1998 points out the potential for danger with regard to the height of buildings by making aircraft susceptible to accidents. And for leaders on the coast and in Washington, jeopardizing Keesler's mission and potentially losing the base in the future by smothering it with growth isn't an option.

"Keesler is a very important part of our diversified economy on the Gulf Coast," Sen. Trent Lott says. "We've got to come together, work with Keesler, work with highway officials, work with local city and county officials."

Mike Olivier says, "Well it's called planning and it's called proper planning. Land use planning should be an element that we all follow to determine where things ought to go, where things ought not to go. There has to be special consideration for the needs of Keesler in terms of maintaining its flying mission."