Jackson County Height Controversy - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Jackson County Height Controversy

"The fire rating is complicated process," says Jackson County Fire Coordinator, Ray Watson.

Waston spents four hours with county supervisors explaining and debating whether to change the county building height restrictions.

Right now, buildings cannot be taller than 35 feet, measured from the ground to the top of the structure. New FEMA regulations will require many homes to be rebuilt on pilings 18 to 20 feet high.

Watson says, "The majority of the houses along the beach are probably going to be considered high rise buildings."

Watson says county fire departments just aren't equipped for that.

"Once you have five buildings that exceed three stories or more, you may be required to have a ladder truck," Watson says.

Between firetrucks, employee salaries, and a need for new facilities, Waston is hesitant about changing height restrictions, but developers say Katrina changed everything. Now, the regulations must change.

"I truly believe that this board has the best interest of the constituents in mind," says developer, Rob McConnell. "There are significant financial considerations for these homeoweners, some of them who've lost everything."

Some homeowners left with nothing but slabs, like these in Langley Point, say they're willing to sell their land to condo developers. But without a change on the height restrictions, their options may be dwindling.

Developer, Kenny Glavan says, "I don't think at this point it's about height. It's about how we're going to recover. The opportunity is before us; it's a glimmer of hope."

The Supervisors say that they are very close to a compromise in the height restriction. The decision could be released as early as next week, which is welcome news to homeowners and developers alike.

By Keli Rabon

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