Ocean Springs residents speak out on city’s Urban Renewal Plan
OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - Monday night, Mayor Kenny Holloway opened the Urban Renewal Plan hearing with an apology to the community, saying, “Communication was not handled properly.”
It was one thing almost everyone in the room agreed on.
“Be open, be honest, be up front. What you all did moving forward with the Urban Renewal Plan, to me, it was very disrespectful to the citizens of that area,” resident Esther Payton said.
Payton was part of the full capacity crowd inside the Ocean Springs Civic Center where residents stood firm in their opposition to the city’s Urban Renewal Plan.
The project highlights six zones for redevelopment, including Bienville Boulevard, Government Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and others. Those areas are where you’ll find property owners fighting to keep historically rooted foundations in the City of Discovery.
“That’s where we were born, lived, played. It means so much to such,” resident Cynthia Fisher said.
For weeks, organizations like “We Shall Not Be Moved, the Jackson County NAACP, and countless residents have attended Tuesday city council meetings to voice their concerns. They say the 171-page development plan wipes black neighborhoods off the map.
“We’re here to ensure that the plan was without any kind of discrimination, any inequalities throughout the city of Ocean Springs,” said Jackson County NAACP President Curley Clark.
City council members approved a decision to allow residents with property currently listed in the city’s Urban Renewal Plan the chance to opt out of the program by October 31, 2023.
Mayor Holloway said the opted-out properties would not be subject to the plan, but the property owners will also miss out on any potential benefits the plan could provide to them.
“I think it’s really injustice of the homeowner. They never asked to be a part of the plan. Now they’re telling you can have your property taken away from the plan, but if you do you don’t get government funding. That’s not right,” said Richard Jackson with the Jackson County NAACP.
Even after that announcement, participants doubled down on how detrimental the project could be for the city. One by one, they were given five minutes at the podium to speak out.
“We just hope that they go back to the drawing board. Like we said, communication goes both ways,” resident Greg Gibson said.
“There’s just too much left unsaid. Too many questions unanswered,” resident Cecilia Synder said.
“I’ve worked for every church in this town and donated work, but I’m a blighted property,” resident Jesse Carroll said.
Mayor Holloway said the council will revisit the Urban Renewal Plan with all the recommendations from citizens.
You can read an overview of what Ocean Springs city leaders hope to accomplish with the Urban Renewal Plan here: https://oceansprings-ms.gov/364/Proposed-Urban-Renewal-Plan
The city’s complete 171-page Urban Renewal Plan, including maps, photos, and descriptions of private property that sparked many concerns, can be found online here: https://oceansprings-ms.gov/DocumentCenter/View/814/Urban-Renewal-Plan?bidId=
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