Jackson County

Walkers seek permit for a bed and breakfast in Ocean Springs

 The home of Scott and Trinity Walker on East Beach Drive in Ocean Springs.
JUSTIN MITCHELL/SUN HERALD/FILE The home of Scott and Trinity Walker on East Beach Drive in Ocean Springs.

OCEAN SPRINGS -- The Planning Commission will consider next week whether Scott and Trinity Walker can rent out their house and guest cottage, or rooms in either, as a bed and breakfast.

The Walker's property is in a pricey neighborhood, on the water along East Beach, but that shouldn't be a factor in the decision, city officials say. Bed and breakfasts have been allowed in the city for 20 years and are less controversial than the more recent trend -- short-term rentals.

According to the notice, the city commission will hold a public hearing on the request at 6 p.m. June 14 at at City Hall.

The Walker home is at 435 East Beach and the city is seeking comments on the bed-and-breakfast proposal in writing before the hearing.

The Walkers kicked up a controversy over their beach property in January when Scott Walker announced plans to rent the house -- weekly as a short-term rental or by the day as an exclusive wedding venue -- before they had applied for the proper city permits.

Scott Walker, a local business consultant and former mayoral candidate, had just returned home from a stint in federal prison and made the announcement in an article on the front page of the Sun Herald. He and his wife had already set up a website seeking renters when there was a waiting list for homeowners ahead of them seeking the proper permits. The city sent letters telling the Walkers to stop.

Matt McDonnell, alderman in the ward where the Walkers live, said he thinks bed and breakfast would be a good fit for the Walkers because they have a guest house on the property. Bed and breakfasts are less controversial in neighborhoods because the owners must live on the property while they rent out a portion of it, he said.

"Regulations are stringent and adjoining property owners have a certain level of protection," McDonnell said.

He called short-term rentals "house hotels" and said they aren't always welcome.

Send comments to City of Ocean Springs Planning Commission, P.O. Box 1800, Ocean Springs, 39566-1800, or via email to Carolyn Martin, planning and grants administrator, at cmartin@oceansprings-ms.gov. The hearing is open to anyone for public comment.