GULFPORT -- The city plans to update tax-break options for new and expanded development.
The administration requested a meeting Thursday evening to get input from City Council members on proposed locations and incentives for tax-abatement districts.
Gulfport has three districts that outline city property-tax breaks over seven years for new construction and improvements that meet financial thresholds.
But tax abatements for the downtown district expired in December 2012. The city also is considering new or expanded districts, including areas along U.S. 90 where valuable waterfront property has been vacant since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Gulfport leaders also want to remain competitive with surrounding communities, including retail juggernaut D'Iberville.
"I don't understand what they're doing that we're not capable of doing," Councilwoman Cara Pucheu said. "We have more here. We should be able to attract more. We're not."
But Pucheu and other council members want a strategic plan for incentives backed by solid data. She said the council has long requested one because incentives should to be targeted to attract the kinds of development Gulfport needs, not just any project that comes along.
Lisa Bradley, executive director of Gulfport's Main Street program, said she has a good handle on the downtown inventory and the types of businesses the city should target, but outside professional assistance could be needed to develop the right incentives for other areas.
Chief Administrative Officer John Kelly said the city still has no viable candidates for economic development director, but is working to find the right person for that job, which was restored to a full-time position under Mayor Billy Hewes.
Hewes took office in July. He said the city is also willing to consider pledging future sales taxes to pay for improvements that would attract development, as D'Iberville has done, but any project would have to demonstrate solid financials.
Councilman Truck Casey said he would like to see tax abatements for a historic Gulfport area known as The Quarters, and Councilman Ricky Dombrowski said tax breaks might be needed for redevelopment of still-vacant commercial property along DeBuys Road and in Mississippi City, especially along the beach.
Council members, some of whom want to confer with constituents, said they will relay suggestions to the administration, which will continue to work on tax-abatement plans.