Two questions emerged Monday night as Tivoli developers made their presentation to the Biloxi Planning Commission. Is their project spot zoning? And would it open up other Highway 90 properties to potential casino developers?
Biloxi planners say spot zoning only affects properties that are less than 10 acres in size. The Tivoli project is a 30 acre development. So the spot zoning issue doesn't exist.
Whether a zoning change opens up other properties to potential casino developers was not resolved during Monday's two hour debate.
Everybody seemed to agree on the overall presentation by the development group.
"This is a beautiful resort," said Robert Barq, a Biloxian who endorsed the project.
But the question opponents asked was did it fit in a section of town where generations of Biloxians grew up. Sonya Kifer said no.
"I feel our city is up for the highest bidder. All we need is a professional auctioneer," she claimed.
The Tivoli is a billion dollar proposal that could create 4,500 new jobs. Part of the development would bring a selection of retail shops to Howard Avenue. Lynn Patterson's family lives near the Tivoli site.
"I've talked to neighbors and everybody else in our community. And we're very, very much in favor of this project," he said.
Cissy Jordan read from notes she wrote prior to the meeting. Her message of support had a central theme.
"If not now, when?" she kept asking.
Elaine Luke had an answer. She told the planning commission how about never. Luke lives on Kuhn Street. So the glitzy reincarnation of the Tivoli would be in her back yard.
"I'm disappointed about it. I'm angry," she said. "You're about ready to give me a heart attack. I won't be able to sleep at night with all this construction in our neighborhood."
The neighborhood was one of the points that kept coming up during the public hearing. Chris Moore lives a few blocks from the site.
"Those of you who feel that east Biloxi is going to be back the way it was, it won't happen," he said.
But one resident didn't think that automatically meant Biloxi should give waterfront property to the casino industry, just because it's littered with hurricane debris. Lester Lala said that because Tivoli's casino can only be developed here if the city rezones the land, and the gaming commission determines that this site is legal.
"It looks like a great project. It really does," conceded Lala. "But I don't see anything there that the average Biloxian can afford."
Tivoli developers bought the Biloxi Yacht Club site and the old home of VFW Post 2434. Investors say both of those facilities will relocate to properties near Highway 90 and Kuhn Street. That will put them on the eastern tip of the Tivoli property.
The Biloxi Planning Commission may vote on the Tivoli's rezoning request this Thursday.