Rules change for renting Mississippi beaches

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Some of South Mississippi's beach vendors may have to find a new place to set up shop. That's after new regulations from the secretary of state.

Beach vendors met with Secretary Delbert Hosemann about an agreement that would change the way Mississippians lease space on the beach.

A new agreement will allow anyone to bid on lease space on the beach. However, the new fee will be five percent of sales.

"It's just something that you wake up out of a bad dream. Because what you've spent and built for years, it's suddenly taken from you. It's robbery," said Raleigh Carter.

Carter owns two beach businesses in front of Edgewater Mall. He loves his sites and wants to stay there, but unless he is the highest bidder, he will soon have to pack up and move.

"We're not out stealing from others, they shouldn't be stealing from us. We've been there 28 years. We've got every penny we've ever owned out there," said carter.

The secretary of state says the beach belongs to all the people of Mississippi and everyone should have fair access to the land.

"This will be a public bid. So anybody that wants to bid on the sites can," said Secretary Hosemann.

Angel Middleton disagrees. After seven years, she's still the newest tenant on the beachfront.

"We worked all of our lives to have what we've got," Middleton said.

Her business is near the Island View and she's afraid she may soon have to bid against the casino giant. And while she loves doing business on the beach, what she doesn't like is the new plan that may boot her out of her Gulfport spot.

"We can't survive the government. If he steps in and says get off the beach then that's all we have," said Middleton.

However, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says that's not the way the agreement will work.

For months, he's hashed out the details with beach vendors and the Harrison County Board of Supervisors. The latest lease agreement protects current vendors for the next five years.

"They will have seven sites that are grandfathered in for them," said Hosemann.

The remaining 25 sites will soon open for public bidding. So as long as the vendors sign on the dotted line, they can stay put for now. Seven of the ten beach vendors did sign the new lease agreement.

Again, those sites will be "grandfathered in" for the next five years. After that, those sites will join the list of other Mississippi sand beach sites open for public bid.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says he hopes to have the bidding open before the start of this year's tourism season.