After objections from Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Biloxi officials will start over on the plan to rezone Margaritaville Resort Biloxi and 20 acres surrounding it to encourage family entertainment and prevent a casino there.
On Sept. 15, the Biloxi Planning Commission voted unanimously in favor of rezoning 20 tax parcels north and south of U.S. 90 from Neighborhood Business and Waterfront to Community Business. A casino can only be built on property zoned Waterfront, which generally is appraised and taxed at a higher rate.
A week later on Sept. 22, a letter from Gulfport attorney Ben Stone was hand-delivered to Biloxi asking for a reconsideration or appeal of the planning commission’s decision.
A new planning commission hearing will be on Oct. 20, said Biloxi City Attorney Gerald Blessey.
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“The planning commission did what they normally do,” said Blessey, which is to notify all property owners on the tax rolls in that area that a public hearing is scheduled. The state is not on the tax rolls and did not receive notice of the rezoning application, he said.
In addition to not receiving notification, Stone’s letter said Hosemann objects to the zoning changes for all 20 parcels and specifically for five parcels.
“The State of Mississippi has an ownership interest in such property,” the letter said.
▪ Parcel Z, a parking lot between Golden Nugget Casino and Margaritaville. It is part of the 2002 Covacevich Compromise and Settlement Agreement that gave the city and state each half interest in the land and said it must be held as public trust property. The city can collect up to $352,000 a year on the property and must divide any additional amount with the state.
▪ Parcels K and L, which are directly south of U.S. 90 in what is now a parking lot west of Margaritaville. These parcels are part of a lawsuit brought by Biloxi Lodging LLC, developer of Margaritaville Resort, against the state and Secretary of State and are public trust tidelands, the letter said.
▪ Parcels 4 and I are owned by the state, the letter said. Parcel 4 is public trust tidelands and Parcel I is state-owned “fastlands,” which are reclaimed or filled tidelands.
The Secretary of State’s office had no additional comment on Tuesday, after the first reading on the zoning change was pulled off the Biloxi City Council agenda.
This is the latest go-around between the city and Hosemann’s office. Biloxi has been fighting to recover $1.4 million in lease payments made by Golden Nugget Casino and swept by the Legislature from a Tidelands account into the state general fund rather than paid to the city.
Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich reported last week that Hosemann had directed $873,273.85 paid to the city. The remaining $600,000 owed to Biloxi will have to wait until the Legislature is back in session and can vote to release the remaining money, Gilich said he was told by Hosemann.