Language In Gulfport Zoning Text Up For Debate

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Is Gulfport designing a roadmap for orderly development? Or are city fathers about to trample on the private property rights of their citizens? Those questions have surfaced since Gulfport began looking at ways to tweak its zoning laws.

Gulfport planners are trying to create zoning standards that protect neighborhoods south of the railroad tracks. Their initial rough draft bans duplexes along the waterfront. And it severely limits the height of buildings.  Allowable density in R-1-7.5 would be cut from almost 11 units per acre to just 5.8 units.  And in R-w districts, density is reduced from 28 units per acre to 5.8 units.

Neighbors may like those concepts. But realtor Doug Molyneaux contends the plan may bring development around Gulfport to a screeching halt.  In an e-mail he sent out, Molyneaux wrote, "This is a blatant attempt by the city to trample on the private property rights of its citizens.  It amounts to nothing more than a taking of property without due compensation."

Gulfport's splash pad is seven miles west of the Great Southern Golf Course. The two areas may be on opposite ends of Gulfport. But they both have empty, hurricane battered lots around them. And they're both in zoning districts that the city may tweak. Brian Carriere is the councilman for ward five, the location of the golf course.

"There are certainly some proposals that are necessary," he said, referring to the zoning text change proposal he's read.

Gulfport planners started discussing possible changes to the city's zoning laws last year. That was after west Gulfport neighbors worried about what projects could move into their area, and replace the hurricane damage around the community. Two weeks ago, the planners suggestions were presented to members of the Gulfport Planning Commission and the city council.

Molyneaux has seen the rough draft.

"I'm not a fan of the proposed zoning changes as they're proposed," the commercial realtor said.

In fact, Molyneaux claims the changes under consideration will stymie development. He says a pending sale of the Great Southern, and the neighboring William Carey University site hinges on the zoning changes.

"Absolutely," he admitted when asked about if the sale was contingent on the language in the zoning text. "So if I was a property owner in the city of Gulfport, I would be shaking in my shoes right now."

The initial proposal basically restricts how waterfront properties can be developed. For instance, planners have recommended the city eliminate two family dwellings south of the railroad tracks. And, they're pushing for a plan that reduces the number of units allowed per acre. In other words, future condo towers may not look like the Legacy complex near the golf course.

"It's definitely going to address the value of properties, and what they can sell for in this market," said Carriere.

The changes to the zoning text are only in their initial stages. City planners expect to hold additional meetings to fine tune their density formulas. And the city council wants public input, before it adopts a new blueprint for its waterfront neighborhoods.