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4 apartment complexes on Coast will be more accessible after settlement

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Developers of six apartment complexes, including four on the Mississippi Coast, have agreed to make the properties handicapped-accessible in a lawsuit settlement.

The properties include The Beach Club in Long Beach, The Belmont in Ocean Springs, Grand Biscayne in Biloxi and Inn By The Sea in Pass Christian. The others are The Belmont in Hattiesburg and The Lexington in Ridgeland.

The developers also have agreed to pay $350,000 to settle claims that they violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The settlement, announced by the U.S. Justice Department on Monday, requires W. Thrash, Dawn Properties Inc., Southern Cross Construction and affiliated companies to pay to retrofit the complexes.

The agreement requires them to pay $250,000 to compensate 25 people whose rights were violated and to pay $100,000 in civil penalties.

The retrofits include eliminating steps, making bathrooms more usable, and providing accessible walkways to amenities such as mailboxes, rental offices, pools and clubhouses. The developers also must provide accessible curb ramps and parking.

The largest of the properties is the Grand Biscayne on Lemoyne Boulevard in Biloxi. The apartment complex has 21 three-story buildings and eight two-story buildings with no elevators, according to the lawsuit.

The Justice Department filed the lawsuit in May 2014 after an independent investigation of complaints to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The case was set for trial Jan. 3.

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