Scenic Drive Rebuilding Concepts Worry Some In Pass Christian - - The News for South Mississippi

Scenic Drive Rebuilding Concepts Worry Some In Pass Christian

Obscured by hurricane spawned weeds in Jan Van Meerveld's front yard is a message to Pass Christian leaders.

"The sign is let's be very careful with what we put back up," Van Meerveld said while he painted the siding on his hurricane damaged house.

"We feel that we're going to lose a lot of what Scenic Drive once was. I think that it's just a broad comment that let's be very careful what we put back on Scenic Drive to retain its beauty in some form, even though it's going to be different to some extent."

The "Keep Scenic Drive Scenic" signs are being passed out by Jim Schmitt.

"I don't know that it's dividing the city, but it's certainly a contentious issue," Schmitt said.

Schmitt heads a citizens group that's worried about what Pass Christian planners may permit along Scenic Drive once downtown reconstruction begins.

"I think what we fear most is just becoming generic and losing our uniqueness that we had here," he said.

The key area that Schmitt's group is most concerned about is a sliver of land between Scenic and Highway 90. Before the storm, an office building, a McDonald's, and a few other buildings sat on that land. But they all got wiped away by the hurricane.

During initial charrette meetings, out-of-town planners came up with a sketch that included single story buildings on the south side of Scenic. Schmitt likes that concept. Now he's heard the Pass Christian Planning Commission is looking at taller buildings, even condominiums on that land.

Planning commission chairman Dayton Robinson says nothing has been decided.

"There's an awful lot of misinformation being sent out to a lot of people," Robinson said.

If the condo concept pans out, and the buildings reach the city's 50 foot height limit, Schmitt would like to know why the city would approve something that blocks downtown Pass Christian's view of the waterfront.

"We don't have a problem with there being buildings on the south side of Scenic here, but that the height, that we don't wall the city off from the Gulf here and from our harbor," Schmitt said.

Robinson emphasized Schmitt's concern is based on speculation. Pass Christian's Planning Commission has not approved any post Katrina designs. However, the planners won't tell property owners they can't use their land.

"We've always had buildings there," said Robinson. "It's the planning commission's position that we should continue to have buildings there."

The planning commission is trying to ratify a master plan as soon as possible. Until then, Scenic Drive and all its hurricane debris will remain scenic.

by Brad Kessie

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