Gulfport Mayor's Father Reaches Compromise Over Blighted Property

It appears a last minute compromise will keep the property of a well known businessman from being declared a public menace. Tuesday night's Biloxi City Council agenda included a resolution regarding the hurricane damaged apartments owned by Gene Warr, father of Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr.

Two weeks ago the Biloxi City Council tabled a decision on the Azalea Gardens Apartments, which neighbors say have sat virtually untouched for two years. Just hours before the meeting, the director of the community development says he and Gene Warr came to agreement they all could live with.

"There's not even a 'No Trespassing' sign on the property," said Frank Schenck.

Schenck lives a few yards from Azalea Gardens in Biloxi. He says although the apartment complex has been in shambles since Katrina, it is far from vacant.

"The main problem is that vagrants were frequenting the building. We've had to call the police of three different occasions to get them to come out to take people out the building."

At a meeting late Tuesday morning, the controversy over Azalea Gardens on Althea Street reached what Biloxi Community Development Director Jerry Creel calls a workable compromise with property owner Gene Warr.

"When Hurricane Katrina hit, it substantially damaged the three northern buildings on this property," said Creel.  "The fourth building, the southernmost building, is still structurally sound. During the meeting, today, we came to a workable solution. Mr. Warr agreed to demolish the three northernmost buildings and to secure the southernmost building."

Gene Warr did not return phone calls about this story, so we don't know what he plans to do with this property once these buildings are destroyed. Creel says, however, that once they are demolished, Warr will need a conditional use permit to rebuild apartments on the property. The old apartments were grandfathered in to new zoning regulations. Any new buildings will have to comply with current parking, set backs, and density requirements, as well as other codes.

"I think this is a workable solution. I think it's a good compromise for both sides. We're not making any special exceptions. We're still making everyone follow the same procedure for re-establishing non-conforming uses," Creel said.

Creel says Warr will have to come up with designs that win the approval of Biloxi's Development Review Committee, the Planning Commission and the City Council before moving forward.

Frank Schenck says he welcomes any solution that cleans up the neighborhood.

"I just hope that this thing is resolved. I don't want to get into finger pointing, I just want to see it taken care of."

Officials say, as part of the agreement, Gene Warr must secure both the remaining building to keep out vagrants, and a swimming pool, which neighbors say has been causing problems with mosquitoes.