All we’re asking for is a little clarity about who owns what along our coastline.
Property ownership, it seems, gets fuzzier the closer the property is to the water. Much of the land nearest the water, it is clear, belongs to the government. That land begins at the water’s edge. The other northernmost boundary? That, it seems, depends on whom you are talking to.
The other day, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and attorneys for the city of Biloxi were doing the talking. Hosemann, on that day, contended the northern boundary is U.S. 90. At least that is the boundary he claimed for the strip of land between Margaritaville and The Blind Tiger.
The Secretary of State’s Office had earlier signed leases based on a boundary that was somewhat south of U.S. 90. And, so, the two sides are off to court. The city, county, Biloxi School District and Margaritaville in one corner and Hosemann and the state in the other.
Margaritaville wants to build an amusement park to complement its family fun center on the property. Hosemann said he thinks he can get a casino developer to build there.
The case hinges on what the phrase “current mean high water line” means. It is a definition that is, as they say, fluid.
A few months ago, the Mississippi Gaming Commission ruled that line is somewhere between the highway and the water without clearly saying where. The commission denied a casino license based on that definition. RW Development had argued the line was at the base of the seawall and that since it owned the land up to that point, that land is a legal casino site.
Once again, it is off to the courts they go.
Now the Legislature has written that the “mean high water line” will be “ambulatory.” We can only imagine what potential businesses and developers think when they hear we have shifting property lines on some of the most expensive property on the Coast.
And, it is only going to get worse as the sea rises and the “mean high water line” moves farther and farther northward.
We believe the Legislature would do us all a favor by taking the uncertainty out of this situation. The people would be better served by a boundary less apt to ambulate, one that is clear to property owners both public and private.
If Mississippi is, as it often claims, business friendly, that would be one way to show it.
The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.