Scott Walker said he is suing the city after the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday denied his request to turn his home into a bed-and-breakfast.
In an interview Tuesday evening, Walker told the Sun Herald his attorney will be filing suit against the city this week. He said the Board of Aldermen neglected to uphold its own ordinance in reviewing his request for a B&B permit, which he applied for in April.
“We’re suing the city of Ocean Springs,” he said. “I hate to have to file a lawsuit, but that’s the only way we’re going to get a fair and honest shake out of this.”
The city’s planning commission voted unanimously to deny the permit request, so Walker appealed to the Board of Aldermen, which also denied his appeal in a 5-1 vote on Tuesday. Alderman Greg Denyer was the lone dissenter.
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Walker’s B&B idea is not popular in the East Beach neighborhood where the Walkers live, and neighbors have consistently voiced their disapproval of the business, some even accusing him of running the B&B under the radar and flouting city codes.
When asked if he felt he was being picked on, Walker replied, “Absolutely.”
Walker passed an early inspection but was turned down by the Planning Commission in January, in part because the East Beach home did not meet the fire-code requirements under the city’s old B&B law. Commercial businesses are required to have sprinklers.
He attended a Board of Aldermen meeting last week with architectural plans for his sprinkler system, but at that meeting, the board passed a moratorium on all new B&B applications until they update the old B&B ordinance.
The city is rewriting the B&B ordinance to make it, among other things, more stringent on owners to be on site when visitors rent. It also is expected to require some approval by neighbors.
Walker said the planning commission and the Board of Aldermen are voting to appease his neighbors rather than voting in accordance with the old law.
“Even though the law was on our side,” he said, “they still went with the neighbors’ approval.”
But the board did not see it that way, Alderman Matt McDonnell said.
McDonnell said the board voted to uphold the planning commission’s decision solely because Walker did not meet the fire-code requirement of a sprinkler system.
McDonnell denied Walker’s allegation that the city has an ax to grind against him.
“I don’t know if he thinks there’s a conspiracy against him or what,” McDonnell said. “The vote by the planning commission was unanimous, and we voted 5 to 1 to uphold the planning commission’s decision.”
The fate of the Walker B&B will now be in the hands of the courts if Walker follows through on filing the suit.
“The city of Ocean Springs will spend thousands on litigation while going through the court process,” he said. “If the city would have followed the law and granted our permit, it would have cost the city nothing.”
Staff writer Karen Nelson contributed to this report.