Jackson County

In Ocean Springs, your neighbors will decide if your home can be a B&B

The city has a new bed-and-breakfast ordinance that now requires neighbor approval.

The city Planning Department had recommended 50 percent of a property’s neighbors be OK with the commercial business in their neighborhood before a permit is issued.

Alderman Matt McDonnell upped that to 60 percent of neighbors who do not object.

Scott Walker, who has threatened to sue the city over his home’s rejection under the old ordinance and who has appealed his rejection in circuit court, said he sees the new ordinance as a way of keeping such businesses out of the city.

“The city just legalized discrimination,” he said after the vote. “I can’t believe they did that .... It’s likely to make (B&B owners) go straight across the bridge to Biloxi.”

Voting for the ordinance were Aldermen McDonnell, Chic Cody, John Gill and Bobby Cox.

Voting against were Aldermen Greg Denyer, Jerry Dalgo and Mike Impey.

Dalgo said he sees it as a property-rights issue, “the right to do what I want with my property.”

He said he understands some neighbors are difficult to live next to, but he wanted to make sure “it meets the law that people can interject their feelings.”

Dalgo asked the city attorney, “If one person can keep a homeowner from opening a business, aren’t we on shaky ground legally?”

McDonnell said Residential-1 neighborhood zoning is the most protective zoning the city has.

Even with the stricter neighbor approval, he said, “I hate to think we’ve weakened it.”

McDonnell thanked the city planners for making sure the new ordinance didn’t discriminate against neighborhoods that don’t have homeowner associations or covenants.

He said under the new ordinance, having a bed-and-breakfast is a special use, contingent on having a good relationship with neighbors. Under the old ordinance, it was an approved use that had to meet requirements.

Walker applied under the old ordinance that did not require neighborhood approval.

The old ordinance was established in the 1990s. The new one was revised in the past six months.

Dalgo was assured bed-and-breakfasts that have been functioning well in the city for years, without complaint, will not have to reapply for permits and get neighbors’ approval. They would be grandfathered in.

But any B&B whose permit is revoked would have to reapply, get neighbors’ approval and comply with the new terms.

“I’m still voting against it on the property-rights issue alone,” Dalgo said.

Impey said, “This is an existing ordinance that has been modified. They were tasked months ago to do this. This is not something that happened quickly.”