Gulfport Home Owners Protest "Outrageous" Building Permit Fees

After Hurricane Katrina ripped their house apart, Skip and Peggy Ryland began making plans to rebuild the home on Second Street.

But after wrestling with insurance issues, a survey and building plans, they never expected what they describe as "price gouging" by the City of Gulfport.

It seems building permit fees are causing outrage among residents and raising concern for city leaders.

It's a case of adding insult to injury. The Rylands say it's bad enough Katrina wiped out the family home. Now, they're facing permit fees of more than $3,000 to rebuild.

"I'm so worried about my oak tree. That and this little pecan are the only trees we have left on our land," said Peggy Ryland, as she showed visitors the barren lot once covered with lush landscaping and a picturesque home.

"This is the part that faced Second Street," said husband Skip, pointing to a picture of the couple's home pre-Katrina.

Like many home owners on their street, the Rylands want to rebuild. They were shocked by the building permit fees.

"The permit for what we want to do here would be between $3,500 and $4,000," said Skip Ryland, "I was completely shocked."

"People have to stand up and say, this is not fair. The city needs to try and help us out. We're not asking for anything free," added his wife.

Gulfport waived building permit fees after the hurricane. But the waiver expired in early December, long before many residents had settled insurance issues, let alone started rebuilding.

"I think what is fair, personally, to try and help us rebuild is to waive fees. Just like Biloxi has done. And at the most, a flat fee of maybe $500," said Peggy Ryland.

Gulfport currently has the highest building permit fees of any city on the coast. But that may be about to change. Reviewing the schedule of permit fees was included on an agenda of action items recently released by Mayor Brent Warr. The Gulfport City Council is also aware of those concerns.

The council president says the issue will come up at next week's meeting.

"I've talked to several council members this morning. And we're all in favor of doing something. We don't know exactly what yet. But I personally would like to see them reduced tremendously, if not waived," said city council president, Barbara Nalley.

The Rylands will be anxiously waiting.

"For people who lost everything in the storm, they need to have a break on what their building permits are," said Mrs. Ryland.