Biloxi Councilman Bill Stallworth Talks About His Proposal To Speed Rebuilding In Ward Two

A walk through Councilman Bill Stallworth's Ward 2 neighborhood is a walk through Biloxi's history.

"These neighborhoods make up the people who made Biloxi great," says Stallworth.

But it's the very makeup of these neighborhoods that's puts them in danger of never being the same again.

"It is important that we put people back on their property as quickly as we possibly can," says Stallworth. "Otherwise we just get these big stretches of land like all of those homes over there."

Following Katrina, the City Council passed a new land use ordinance that says people building back from the ground up couldn't rebuild this close together, or this close to the street. That means, says Stallworth, that much of historic Biloxi will be history.

"Say if you have a lot that's basically 50 feet deep. It requires you to have a 20 foot front yard, a 20 foot back yard. Your house can only be 10 feet wide. That doesn't work, and unfortunately we have a lot of lots in this area that fit into this kind of category."

His solution,.. give residents a 1 year moratorium from the new set back requirements, and allow them to build back on their old house's original footprint.

"After a hurricane where you've lost thousands of homes, it's just impractical to think that all these folks can go back through that planning process to get their houses rebuilt."

Stallworth says public safety concerns such as fire prevention and adequate emergency traffic access would still be addressed on a case by case basis in his amended ordinance. And he says unless the council agrees with him or agrees on a compromise, many of these lots, owned by some of the oldest and poorest Biloxi citizens, will remain vacant.

They're the hardest hit," says Stallworth. "They're the least able to come back. We've got to do everything we can as a city to help them."

by Don Culpepper