Biloxi council decides whether to make cottages permanent

By Krystal Allan - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Should they stay or should they go? That's the decision the Biloxi City Council will make Tuesday regarding Mississippi cottages. On December 18th, the Biloxi Planning Commission recommended allowing 111 cottages to become permanent homes.

Ward 2 Councilman Bill Stallworth wants to know where the residents will go if MEMA cottages are not allowed to become permanent homes.

"It's just vitally important that we still don't forget that people will be in the cold," says Stallworth.

Councilman Mike Fitzpatrick agreed with the planning commission's decision to allow some cottages to become permanent homes, but says there's one point he can't buy into.

"I'm still not sold on allowing them in RS-5," says Fitzpatrick.

There are many concerns with putting cottages in the RS-5 zone. They include making sure the cottages fit the character of the surrounding neighborhoods and putting cottages back in an area heavily damaged during Hurricane Katrina. Another issue, according to some city councilmen, what size cottages will be allowed to stay?

"If we do pass this ordinance, we need to make them two bedroom or three bedroom," says Fitzpatrick.

Stallworth supports this guideline but will push for some changes.

"I would encourage them to look at situations where we have those one bedrooms and ask (MEMA) to replace them with two bedrooms," says Stallworth.

It's not only size, but height that matters.

"MEMA is going to pay for anything 5 feet 7 inches. They'll pay for it all. If you go up six feet, they won't pay for anything whatsoever," says Fitzpatrick.

But, Stallworth says, there might be a way to help potential homeowners who want to raise their cottages beyond 5 feet 7 inches.

"If there are a couple of extra feet involved, we can build the ground up a bit so they [MEMA] can come in and still do the 5 foot 7," says Stallworth.

Since much of his ward will be affected by the decision, Stallworth hopes the council will decide to give those in cottages a permanent place to call home.

"I encourage this administration and this city to make a sound statement for the people here.  We won't kick you out in the cold.  We won't leave you homeless.  We'll take care of our people."

If approved, the planning commission recommends requiring homes in the RS-5 zones to go through a special application process with the city, and have a permanent foundation in place by May 1st ahead of hurricane season.

Tuesday morning there will be a workshop on the cottages at 10:00 a.m.  The council meeting will be at 1:30 p.m. Both meetings will be in council chambers at City Hall.