Gulfport Council still undecided on MEMA cottages

By Rebecca Powers - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Those hoping to stay in their MEMA cottages in Gulfport will have to wait a few more days to find out their fate.

Council members gathered Monday to vote on making cottages permanent. But they say they still need to mull over many agonizing factors - things like insurance, flood elevations and tax rates - before they vote.

Council members and MEMA officials do agree that they need to find what's least harmful to cottage residents, while also doing what's best for Gulfport and other residents who live near the structures.

Betty Hart is one of those homeowners.

"Well, I'm not really against it," Hart said Monday. "I just don't want the price of my home to go down because of the cottages."

City of Gulfport CEO Dr. John Kelly understands Hart's concerns, but says it's just one of many factors council members must consider.

Everybody has a stake in this," Kelly said. "We want to make sure that everybody is protected."

MEMA's Keith Campbell told the council he doesn't envy the task ahead. MEMA will sell residents their cottages at adjusted rates based on their income, but the city must comply with federal rules and create its own restrictions.

Here's what the council is considering: The cottages would be for single family use only, must comply with flood ordinances, must meet all building codes and setback requirements, and must be owner occupied. The cottages also wouldn't be allowed in subdivisions, must comply with neighborhood covenants and may not be expanded or altered.

But making cottages larger, in order to look more like "real homes," is what Betty Hart wants in her neighborhood.

"Just as long as it's like a home, so the price of my home won't go down. That's the only thing I'm worried about," Hart said.

Dr. Kelly says city leaders have to make sure Gulfport's interests are protected at all times, while making as many residents as possible content. He says it's all very complex.

"This is a very difficult situation. It's a volatile situation and it's emotional. I want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to own a home, if there's a way to do that without damaging the image or the appreciation of the property next to them."

The council will try to make their final vote this Thursday.