Affordable housing development attracts neighborhood opposition

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Residents along North Swan Road are speaking out against a proposed housing project in their neighborhood. They're worried about a developer's plans to build 81 new homes and 91 apartments.

Neighbors took their concerns to the Harrison County Planning Commission Thursday afternoon.

It's another instance of development along the coast creeping northward. Residents are finding proposed projects getting closer and closer to their homes, many of which are located on large lots in what had been clearly "the country."

But like it or not, the once rural landscape is changing.

The winds of change are blowing along North Swan Road just outside the Gulfport city limits. And many residents fear the impending breeze may stir up a storm.

"I don't want a bunch of apartments in a residential area. This is not an apartment area," resident Richard O'Neal told planning commissioners.

"We don't have the roads for it. We don't have the watershed for it," added Robert Flynt.

Neighbors crowded the planning commission meeting to object about a mixed use development on 28 acres. The property is less than a half mile from busy Highway 49.

The developer says he's already scaled back the density following earlier objections.

"The density has been reduced by approximately 33 percent," said Larry Mitrenga.

Tim Holleman is the developer's attorney.  He told the commission, "You're going to see that there is major development in this area that's changing the neighborhood. That's coming to this area."

Several months ago, residents successfully stalled another proposed housing development in the area. Neighbors say they're willing to fight to defend their quality of life.

"Now if they'd come out here and scale this back and build less homes on there, nicer homes on bigger lots. They're talking four point three homes per acre. That's just absurd," said longtime resident Harold Bicksey.

The developer says his proposed subdivision of affordable housing will meet a definite need.

"We've been able to hit on a target that basically allows us to capture a larger point of market share right now," said Mitrenga.

"They're going to need housing up there. And not just houses, but apartment complexes, where people that can't afford a house will have a place to live, nearby where they're going to work," said Holleman.

Following the hour long public hearing and after a brief discussion, the planning commission granted the developer's rezoning request.

The board of supervisors will have the final say and supervisors can expect to hear from those opposed to the project.