Round two of the contest of wills between the city and Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich favoring plans for an amusement park adjacent to Margaritaville Resort Biloxi and Hosemann making a case keeping the location as a casino site.
On Thursday, the Biloxi Planning Commission is scheduled to again consider a request from the city to rezone 20 acres around Margaritaville Resort Biloxi to a classification that will prohibit a casino. The commission unanimously approved the request last month, but Hosemann objected, saying he wasn’t notified of the hearing and that several parcels fall under tidelands regulations.
Gilich met with Hosemann in Biloxi on Oct. 6 and said the zoning change is a key to allowing family entertainment projects on land that should be available at non-casino market values.
Gilich revealed Monday that Hosemann wants Biloxi to postpone Thursday’s hearing to give him time to present “a potentially competing project on the same site.”
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“While we certainly respect your idea about creating another casino site on land claimed by the state, there is no developer ready to invest at this time.” Gilich said in a letter to Hosemann.
Gilich also revealed that Broaddus Planning created a “Mississippi Secretary of State Coastal Land Use Site Capacity Study.” Gilich said Hosemann has declined to share that plan with the city.
“You stated earlier this year regarding the Deer Island pier/visitation project that it would give our tourists an excuse to ‘stay another day,’” Gilich said in the letter to Hosemann. “Certainly Margaritaville’s new venture will give families a reason to visit us in the first place and stay another day.”
Those plans call for Barrington Development, the company that restored and enlarged the former Casino Magic into Margaritaville Resort Biloxi, to invest another $140 million on a 317-room hotel plus an amusement park with a giant Ferris wheel and other attractions south of U.S. 90. The company also wants to build a 100-room extended stay hotel to the north between Cedar and Pine streets.
Barrington already owns much of the land, but needs a tidelands lease with the Secretary of State for the project.
Barrington Development also restored the White House Hotel and is restoring the former Santa Maria del Mar senior housing into a hotel. The company estimates phase II of Margaritabille with its amusement park and hotels will bring more than 1 million new visitors a year, create 700 jobs and pay $2 million a year in local and state taxes.
Gilich said the Margaritaville proposal would give Biloxi a package that no other casino jurisdiction could match.
The 23 parcels the city wants to rezone are between Margaritaville and the Great Lawn at Harrah’s Gulf Coast Casino south of U.S. 90, and between Harrah’s and St. Michael Church north of 90.
The planning commission will again hear the case at 2 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Community Development building, 676 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The Biloxi Council then will decide whether to change the zoning.