Harrison County

Biloxi panel tables rezoning around Margaritaville

Five minutes before the Biloxi Planning Commission meeting Thursday, a decision was reached between attorneys for the city and the Secretary of State’s Office to slow down the rezoning of the land around Margaritaville Resort Biloxi.

More than two hours later, after the attorneys had had their say, the planners voted to table the hearing until the next meeting Nov. 3.

The planning commission voted unanimously at the end of the meeting to recommend approval of a zoning change for land north of U.S. 90, which Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann does not oppose. Margaritaville wants to build an extended-stay hotel on that parcel. The commission’s action now will go to the City Council for a vote.

The city is requesting that 23 acres around Margaritaville Resort Biloxi be rezoned from waterfront to community business, which prohibits casinos and therefore lowers land values.

Barrington Development, which opened Margaritaville in June, wants to build a hotel and amusement park south of U.S. 90, part of which will be on land the company hopes to lease from the Secretary of State’s Office.

Biloxi city attorney Gerald Blessey argued competition is cutting into the revenue of Biloxi’s casinos and the city needs to diversify its tourism economy.

“To get more visitors, we don’t need more casinos. We need more family-oriented attractions,” he said.

Jonathan Dyal, partner in Balch & Bingham and attorney for the Secretary of State’s Office, said Margaritaville is paying $4.90 per square foot for property it is leasing from the state. The developer’s offer to pay $2 per square foot would mean a loss of $26 million to the Tidelands fund over life of the 40-year lease.

Biloxi Councilman Kenny Glavan forfeited his vote when the zoning changes go to the City Council because he chose to support the project at the planning commission meeting.

Glavan said the hotels and amusement park proposed by Margaritaville Resort are expected to attract 1 million people a year.

Glavan said Hosemann is concerned about leaving money on the table.

“We’ve got $140 million on the table with just this development alone,” he said earlier.