Gulfport Considers Smart Code

Smart Code divides the larger City of Gulfport, into a series of livable "communities." It's a comprehensive land use planning ordinance that involves some basic principles.

"It comes down to being very, very focused on the neighborhood and on the communities and on making livable spaces that work. That's really what it comes down to," says Dr. Jeff Bounds, who's working as a planning consultant for the city.

Hurricane Katrina's destruction created opportunity to reconsider the city's approach to planning.  Bounds says "Smart Code" is especially suited to helping revive some of Gulfport's older neighborhoods.

"Under Smart Code, essentially the community says, this is what we're looking for. This is what we want our community to be. Gives developers a very clear definition and explanation of the kinds of development we're looking for. And the number of variances should essentially drop dramatically," he explains.

Commercial construction is a significant segment of the coast's recovery. Smart Code allows "mixed uses" within a neighborhood, but still maintains certain restrictions, based upon input from residents.

"If you have a residential street and you want to have a commercial activity there, it has to be on the corner, and it can't be on every corner. So, you have the opportunity to walk to the corner and shop, but you don't necessarily have a retail shop next to your house," says Mayor Brent Warr.

Again, it all comes back to neighborhoods. Smart Code proponents say this sensible approach includes realistic height and density requirements. It's not a cookie cutter approach, but rather a community blueprint, based on neighborhood input.

"The fundamental component of Smart Code is not a zone; it's a community. And so what we're really doing under the Smart Code is assembling communities," says Bounds.

The City of Gulfport held a public meeting Thursday evening to further explain the Smart Code approach and the advantages it offers the city.