Biloxi Historic District residents seek stronger commercial development standards

Published: May. 23, 2016 at 12:42 AM CDT|Updated: May. 23, 2016 at 2:24 AM CDT
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BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - There's a battle brewing between residents and a big corporation, and the City of Biloxi is caught in-between.

Seal Ave. residents are proud of their neighborhood, where turn-of-the-century homes line the street just off U.S. 90. They don't mind doing what needs to be done to make sure history is preserved - they just want others to follow the same rules.

"We can't do anything to the exterior of our house," said Barbara Lyons, resident for nearly 52 years. "We can't put up a fence unless the city allows us to do it. So, why should big corporations in the same geographical area not have to meet the same standards we do."

Lyons and other residents don't object to the development of the La Quinta Inn in between Seal and Hopkins Blvd., but want the property to fit in.

"I'm concerned that the first thing you're going to see when you come into the city of Biloxi off I-10 it's going to shout, 'Any city USA,'" said Nanette Burke. "It's not going to say, 'Uniquely historical Biloxi.'"

Additionally, the hotel has requested variances on the ordinance that would make it closer to the road, and cut back on a buffer zone between it and Seal Ave. The good news for residents - the approval process is not even halfway finished, leaving plenty of opportunity for both officials and neighbors to have their voices heard.

The plans - which have been in the works for almost two years - were recently approved by the Architectural and Historical Review Committee. However, residents are appealing the decision to the Biloxi City Council.

Seal Ave. resident and attorney Ryan Cannon says the council should hear the appeal in about two weeks. The appeal could then be sent back for further review before going on to the planning commission, the city council, and then to the mayor for approval.

"The residents are tight-knit; they're very proud of their neighborhood, and we're happy about that," said Biloxi spokesman Vincent Creel. "What we're going to be looking for is to strike a good balance here where we have development that fits into the neighborhood and is a plus for our community."

Resident Dennis Burke believes developers will still come to Biloxi even if they have to follow stricter standards.

"You know what, if this particular hotel doesn't want to do that, somebody else will," Burke said. "Because this property is prime."

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