Biloxi Catholic Diocese Withdraws Permit Request

GULFPORT (WLOX) --  "Opponents would use this forum to promote rebuilding St. Paul's on the beach," said David Allen with the Biloxi Catholic Diocese.

"The issues here are about the neighbors, purely and simply," said Pass Christian resident Henry Kinney.

For nearly three hours Thursday night, supporters and opponents debated on whether the Biloxi Catholic Diocese should get a conditional use permit to build a new church in place of Our Lady of Lourdes Church. The new church and surrounding parish would also include the St. Vincent De Paul Elementary School.

"Holy Family wants to grow with the community as the community grows," Allen said.

"What I am opposed to, as a neighbor who's 272 feet from this campus, is the campus," Kinney said.

Residents in the surrounding Pineville Community are worried the project is too large for the piece of land on which it would sit. They're also concerned about flooding and heavy traffic from the school. Residents even hired a planner to look into the traffic issue.

"By putting traffic out on Menge Avenue, you're creating a public safety issue," said planner David Nichols.

Despite the opposition, at least half a dozen residents stood in support of the plan.

Then after nearly two and half hours of testimony, the Biloxi Catholic Diocese made an unexpected move.

"We would be more than willing to sit down and discuss the church. If the commission will allow us to withdraw it and hold it for naught, then we will definitely sit down and talk," Allen said.

The move to withdraw the plans seemed to ease tensions for the time being.

"We'd be more than happy to sit down and talk about a new church," Kinney said.

Though the Diocese did not walk away with a permit, this meeting did end with a plan for everyone involved to sit down and re-group.