Biloxi hasn't decided if it will expand its casino zone along Highway 90 to include the Tivoli site. However, the city did make a waterfront zoning change near its back bay to benefit the Custom Pack property owners. Four-and-a-half acres of land on the northern tip of Lee Street is now eligible for casino development.
Tuesday's decision was very different from the sometimes volatile talk about how the beachfront should be zoned. This time, there was no debate and no controversy surrounding the back bay zoning change request.
Custom Pack's shrimp processors work in a hurricane damaged building that's adjacent to Biloxi's back bay casino zone. The processing plant became eligible for casino development after Katrina forced the state legislature to approve on shore gambling, and the city rezoned the Lee Street parcel.
According to Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway, "This property doesn't have any waterfront to it. But it's right off of the waterfront, right across the street from it."
Biloxi's city council unanimously endorsed the waterfront zoning change for Custom Pack. Custom Pack owners and their neighbors now have the green light to package their properties together as one large site on Back Bay Boulevard for hotel, condo and casino development. George Lawrence represents property owners on the waterfront.
"They're trying to zone all that property and make it one set of properties so they can either put a casino back there. So this is just a step to do that," he said after the 5-0 vote.
Custom Pack owners say they have no immediate plans to sell their Lee Street land. However, they do have developers sniffing around the site. Mayor Holloway says that interest proves the Back Bay Boulevard area is a viable location for casino investors.
"By zoning it WF, it just increases the value of the property," the mayor said. "And that's where we hope to see a lot of development go around, that Back Bay Boulevard."
For years, the only casinos on the back bay have been IP and Boomtown. Mayor Holloway says he knows about three other projects that could be developed soon. One is Bacaran Bay. The mayor didn't name the other two back bay groups. But he said if they could clear some environmental hurdles, they had the financing to be built.