Jackson County

Ocean Springs tables B&B changes; ‘bad apples’ don’t show at meeting

Two attorneys and an East Beach resident successfully argued that the city should slow down before making changes to its law that governs bed and breakfasts.

Alderman Matt McDonnell made a motion to table any changes for two months to give everyone time to look at what the Planning Commission is proposing. Aldermen agreed.

The Planning Commission has held two public hearings on it.

But attorney Jim Reeves asked aldermen at Tuesday night’s meeting why the city, for example, would want to withdraw the requirement that bed and breakfasts meet commercial fire and safety standards — something that was in the original 1994 ordinance and not the revision.

“This is an important ordinance that will apply citywide,” Reeves said. “Taking it up in a haphazard way is a sure way to end up on the business end of a lawsuit.”

Reeves, who represents residents and his own interests in property on East Beach, told aldermen, “we don’t think (the changes to the ordinance) are adequate on first blush.”

Joe Cloyd who lives on East Beach, the neighborhood that spurred the city to take another look at the ordinance, said he thinks it give preference to newer subdivisions with homeowner associations and discriminates against the older ones that don’t have them.

The law says homeowner associations could exclude bed and breakfasts.

The only current applicant for a bed and breakfast in the city is Walker Management, Scott and Trinity Walker’s home on East Beach, where neighbors have complained for the past year that the two have been renting out the house without a bed-and-breakfast permit. Their application for a permit has been tabled.

Neither the Walkers nor their attorney Billy Guice made an appearance Tuesday night to defend themselves.

But aldermen did.

When Alderman Jerry Dalgo said, it only takes “one bad apple” to to spoil bed and breakfasts for the whole city, “and apparently we have some of that going on,” Mayor Connie Moran pointed to the Walkers.

“The homeowner in question has continued to rent the facility while all this is being discussed,” Moran said. She said she doubts their claim that they are renting for longer than 30 days, which negates the need for bed-and-breakfast status, and said they “lack good faith” in their dealings with the neighborhood.

Alderman Greg Denyer, however, said, “Now we’re getting into personalities with someone who ran against the mayor.”

Scott Walker did have an unsuccessful bid for mayor against Moran.

Nothing aldermen did Tuesday night changes the status of the Walker’s application.

On Wednesday, Scott Walker sent the Sun Herald the following statement: "The ordinance that we applied under on April 25, 2016, and the new amendment that has been proposed doesn't say ‘you can have a B&B in Ocean Springs unless you live on East Beach.’ Also, neighbor opinion isn't part of the required criteria. The comments that the mayor of Ocean Springs insinuated about me and my wife in a public meeting last night were untrue and upsetting to say the least ...

“Our application for a use permit for B&B meets the criteria, we've passed all of our inspections by the city of Ocean Springs, and should have received our permit 6 months ago. If the city wants to change the ordinance for future B&B's, that's great, but we applied under the old ordinance. In the end, the problem that certain city officials are having is with the person applying and not the application itself."