Biloxi leaders made a major change to zoning along the beach front Tuesday. And it's a change those in the tourism industry say will elevate the coast to a premier convention destination.
Council members approved creating what's called a convention overlay district to allow development of condotels which are resort properties that can be used year round or nightly.
Before the Biloxi City Council voted to approve plans to create a Convention Center Overlay District, members listened to the concerns and comments from the public.
"I would like to ask two things: One that you conduct some sort of feasibility study to determine what exactly the city of Biloxi needs, and secondly, for some sort of transition zone between the high rise condos and the existing residential subdivisions," said one resident.
However, many people are looking forward to the plans.
"If we dream of being a world class tourist destination, then we have a long way to go. But this is a step in the right direction," another resident said.
It's that desire to boost Biloxi's tourism value that led council members to support changes to current zoning rules along Highway 90 from Veterans Avenue, west to DeBuys Road.
With the changes in the convention overlay district, developers will be able to increase density and height on condotels.
Biloxi Public Affairs Manager Vincent Creel says the changes protect Keesler Air Force Base and other area interests.
"The other thing that it does is that it enforces parking requirements and it protects the historic neighborhoods such as the Edgewater Park neighborhood. It also excludes Edgewater Mall and the Edgewater Village Shopping Center. One of the issues that has come up from the Mississippi Convention and Visitors Bureau is that when they are out trying to lure conventions to the Gulf Coast, the convention folks are looking towards accommodations that are near a convention site. What this will do is it will put the hotel rooms and the condotel rooms near the convention center itself," Creel said.
City leaders say this vote sets Biloxi up to become a top convention destination.
The Central Overlay District plan will now become a part of the land development ordinance and it will be a guide for future development in the West Biloxi area.