The Biloxi Department of Community Development is responsible for overseeing all development in the city. This takes many forms including overseeing building projects, economic development, code enforcement and reviewing plans for potential construction. The department is composed of 14 divisions which include economic development, planning, zoning, building permits, inspections, code enforcement, floodplain management, community rating system (CRS), federal and state programs, business licensing, historic preservation, museums, cultural affairs and tree preservation. The department employs 32 people.
“Basically, what happens in this department is anyone who wants to do any building projects, rehab projects or economic development projects has to go through us,” said Jerry Creel, Community Development Director. “Our job is to accept the application for the project whatever it happens to be, review the site plan, building construction plans and make sure that the project is designed to comply with our federal, state and local ordinances.”
These building codes come from a nonpartisan agency called the International Code Council (ICC). Every three years, this agency releases new building standards which cities have the option of adopting. The zoning codes are created by the department with the help of public hearings, and voted on by the city council. Another important set of regulations comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). All of these must be voted into law by the city council before they are adopted by the city.
The department also ensures that citizens maintain their property to city standards.
“We also have a responsibility to make sure that once a project is developed, the owner maintains that structure to a certain minimum standard adopted by the city council,” he added.
If the property owner does not comply with the standards, they will first receive a notice of violation and adequate time to fix the issue. If the violation still has not been settled, the department will write the property owner a ticket, and still give them some time to clear up the violation. If that doesn’t work, the property owner will have to go to community court or will be taken before the city council.
The department often cooperates with other departments within the city including public works, fire, and police. Also, the department often works with federal and state agencies including, FEMA, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Department of Marine Resources (DMR).
“Everything we do in this department, we work hand-in-hand with other departments,” Creel said.
At the end of the day, Creel is grateful for the opportunity to help people solve problems.
“I’ve always considered myself a public servant, and I get great satisfaction from helpoing people move their projects along,” he said.
The Community Development Department is located at 876 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and can be contacted at 228-435-6280.
–Charlie Benton, Public Affairs intern, 7/2015