BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Another battle is brewing between the City of Biloxi and the Secretary of State's office after the city council voted Tuesday night to approve construction of a pier at the end of Veterans Avenue.
The vote came even after the mayor and council received a letter from Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann requesting that the city "cease and desist with this attempt to option a lease of State held trust property without the State’s consent.”
WLOX received a copy of that letter which states:
“The procedure provided in the Tidelands Act of 1989, established the area of the Sand Beach and the submerged lands waterward of the Sand Beach as Public Trust Tidelands owned by, and held in trust by, the State of Mississippi. The Secretary of State is the Land Commissioner for the State, and is the Trustee of the Public Trust Lands. Pursuant to statute, the Secretary of State, with the approval of the Governor, may rent or lease surface lands, tidelands or submerged lands owned or controlled by the State of Mississippi lying in or adjacent to the Mississippi Sound or the Gulf of Mexico.”
The resolution passed Tuesday night without any opposition. In the resolution, it says the construction of a new municipal pier “serves multiple purposes of the Public Trust for Tidelands by promoting, fostering and enhancing public access to the water and tidelands as well as marine-related public and private development and use of piers, wharfs, docks and related public and private recreational facilities and economic development.”
According to the city, this is similar to the project to build a pier at Oak Street near The Blind Tiger.
“Now you’re going to tell us we don’t own it? We feel this is an obligation to give public access to the waterfront. It’s always been here. We’re restoring it and we found a good way to do it,” said Biloxi spokesman Vincent Creel.
Before Hurricane Katrina, there was a pier at the end of Veterans Avenue so this project would restore a pier that’s been missing since 2005. In addition, it’s next to the city’s new boardwalk and city leaders say it will be an additional amenity for Biloxi residents and visitors.
“It’s not just for our local residents to enjoy the waterfront; it’s also for visitors. It’ll tie in to the beautiful boardwalk that has been so popular. It’s a great city and county venture,” Creel said.
Property around the area is owned by RW Development. The pier concept represents a business agreement between the company and Biloxi.
“He’s going to pay $5,000 for the right to build this pier. It’ll be a public pier paid for with private money,” Creel said.
The City of Biloxi has disputed with the Secretary of State’s office on other projects in the past. In one of those disputes, the city joined Biloxi Public Schools and Harrison County in a lawsuit against the Secretary of State over tidelands payments involving the construction of Margaritaville’s proposed amusement park. The city, school board and county all agreed to dismiss that lawsuit last year.