Biloxi residents: MEMA cottage buying process to take longer than deadline

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Some Biloxi residents trying to purchase MEMA cottages say the city's given them a lot to do in a very short amount of time. On Thursday, the city's Architectural and Historical Review Commission approved four applicants seeking site approval for permanent cottages. The residents still have a lot more to accomplish in the next seven weeks.

During his Mississippi Cottage Design Review, 75-year-old Walter Collins said he's too old to borrow money to rebuild.

"I didn't get enough grant to build another house," said Collins. "That's my problem, and I want buy that cottage from MEMA."

The commissioners questioned Collins and other applicants about designs for setbacks, shrubbery, and more to ensure MEMA cottages blend into Biloxi neighborhoods.

"It's a lengthy process, several steps and I guess hurdles you have to take, but it's good. It's a good system," Harold Bergeron said.

When the Biloxi council approved the cottages as permanent housing on December 30, there was a stipulation.

"The way the original resolution was passed by city council is all the foundations had to be in by May first,"  Biloxi Historical Administrator Bill Raymond said.

But before they can lay foundations, residents still need approval from the planning commission and city council.

Biloxi resident Mary Rose Leahy said she "can see their point, wanting it May the first, before hurricane season. But with all of this paperwork, it's really going to take a lot of time before I can even start doing anything of a constructive nature."

"It's a lengthy process," Bergeron said. "This alone might take two or three months, just to go through and get to the permitting process. So I don't know if that's feasible, frankly. We're in March, so the process will take longer than May, I think."

Bergeron and others trying to follow the cottage rules hope the city reconsiders the deadline.

Some residents told WLOX News off camera that another concern they have about meeting the May deadline is that they are working to get approval from two agencies.  They need MEMA to approve the sale of cottages and MDA for elevation grant for the pilings.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.