East Biloxi-Living Cities

For the presentation made at the April 27 meeting, click here.

For the presentation made at the May 4 meeting, click here.

For the presentation made at the May 11 meeting, click here.

For the presentation made at the May 18 meeting, click here

Below are the available minutes for each meeting:

 

Public Meeting Summary
East Biloxi Action Plan
May 11, 2006, 6 p.m.
Biloxi Community Center, Howard Avenue

 

The third of five planned public meetings as part of the East Biloxi planning effort by Living Cities was held Thursday, May 11th at the Biloxi Community Center on Howard Street.

More than 80 people attended and participated actively in the evening’s program.  Living Cities is a national nonprofit organization working with 17 major private foundations to improve urban neighborhoods.  Living Cities has been asked by Mayor Holloway to assist in developing an action plan for rebuilding East Biloxi.

The project team made a presentation describing two potential land use options for the rebuilding of E. Biloxi.  Meeting participants then broke out into small groups to discuss the two options presented.  Below are the comments received during these sessions.

Planning & Implementation

  • How do we preserve what we’ve got?  There is development pressure from the Casinos.  We need an Integrated Plan that considers the ethnic, cultural, and architectural diversity along with the tourism and gaming industry and other commercial development.
  • Plans should attempt to bring back the Biloxi charm; the diversity of ethnicity, socio-economic levels, and historic architectural styles.
  • There was concern about the single family percentage mix with multi-family and how that affects the population demographics, city infrastructure, traffic and the environment.  Also, the higher density perimeter areas on the plans would add more congestion and strain on the city resources.  With the influx of people and the additional development with mixed densities, the city will not get back to the original character.
  • There is historical neighborhood from Oak St. to the waterfront on the east side of East Biloxi that is not shown on any of the plans.  The neighborhood of 20’s & 30’s wood-frame houses with porches was wiped out and should be allowed to rebuild and controlled to maintain the original character.
  • There is a concern for “eye sores” and the fact that the city council approves buildings that are counter to the plan.  Concerned about what the city government does and if it will follow through.
  • The City Council needs to follow through with the implementation of the citizen approved plan and not change the plan or grant variances.
  • We accept mixed use- but how do we control it and how do we redevelop (or allow development) that is cohesive and consistent?
  • Are citizens going to be able to stay if they want to?  What mechanisms will be in place to allow homeowners to stay?  There is concern about homeowners who don’t have the resources to rebuild.
  • We need to get this comprehensive plan with proper control overlays to preserve what currently exists or market forces will takeover.
  • What happens to the property owners in areas of new uses?
  • For Option I, is Keesler AFB in agreement with the plan for residential west of I110, in the flooded area?
  • Who has the final say regarding the options to rebuild?  And on building condos?
  • Are the condominiums on the west side of Biloxi only?
  • Are people in the Waterfront area on the east side of town going to be forced to move or can they rebuild?  They are getting housing permits and are already starting.  Are they going to lose there investment because of the outcome of this comprehensive plan (if changes in their land zoning occurs)?
  • A lot of single family houses that are in designated “mid-rise” areas are currently being rebuilt because nobody has told them to stop.
  • There was a suggestion to restore Main Street and emphasize development in the downtown area.

Design Guidelines

  • Would like to see the City institute design guidelines for the new large buildings.  The design of the casinos is very important.  Poor design takes away from valuable public space.  Don’t want to see parking garages along highway 90.
  • Design, design, design.  Design is everything.
  • FEMA ought to buy land if it continues to flood.  Other land owners ought to have some opportunities to capitalize on their investment if FEMA and city change policies.  No entity should be able to just take it!
  • For high density development, there should be height restrictions and they should be enforced.  There is some concern about the AFB flight path being affected and the base having to move.
  • Don’t want skyscrapers; 12 to 14 stories max.
  • Want view corridors to the water.

Open Space and Community Amenities

  • A buffer area is needed between Boomtown and the nearby residential area.
  • We need recreational fields for each community.  We need more small parks for each neighborhood (i.e. pocket parks).
  • Suggestions were made for amenities such as a bicycle trail, amphitheater, parks, an art district with lofts, hostels, independent film cinemas, small non-chain restaurants with outdoor seating.  Also, it was suggested to have residential over retail/commercial uses.
  • How will the “Green” (parks) shown on the Concept Plans be acquired? By the City, by another entity, by FEMA?
  • Would like to see a blending of options 1 & 2 – housing combined with community amenities.
  • There was a concern that there are too many casinos that aren’t financially helping the city.  They want more entertainment options for the residents (such as bowling alleys).

Single Family and Affordable Housing

  • Desire and need for affordable single family with new options for current residents.
  • Affordable housing is needed, especially for those who with a fixed-income and/or the elderly.
  • The priority of the plan should be Single Family and to maximize the number of single family homes.
  • East Biloxi was/is a typical Traditional Neighborhood Development with housing and work areas.  The new plan needs to coordinate employment and affordable housing.
  • The Waterfront & Entertainment area on the concept plans should allow for Single Family residential, especially along the east side.
  • One suggestion for single family redevelopment: Affordable townhouses with zero lot lines and small backyards.  The Home Owner’s Association would maintain the front yard and common areas.

Waterfront

  • The seafood industry is being ignored.  The two options don’t show a large enough area.  The seafood industry has been a ‘good neighbor”.  We should develop something like a “fisherman’s wharf”.
  • The Vietnamese community wants to be near the shrimping areas and would like a “cultural village” with retail and mixed uses; a cultural community neighborhood.
  • Repair the wharves and piers to pre-Katrina capacity and add other community amenities and public boat ramps.
  • Take advantage of the waterfront by adding bike paths, boardwalks, public access around the coast of the peninsula, a “river walk”.  Like the “sea breeze”.

FEMA Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFEs)

  • Why is the estimated cost to elevate our homes possibly $30,000 each?  A grant is available from FEMA.  Unfortunately, only East Biloxi (homeowners) is under financial pressure to raise their houses.  How can you afford to elevate buildings that can stand up against strong winds?
  • Concern about FEMA in 2 years (elections): They will change the rules and they won’t allow rebuilding (insurability).
  • Raising houses on stilts seems like a bad idea for elderly because of stairs or because heavy wind could still destroy homes.

Traffic

  • Traffic congestion concerns in the mid-rise areas as city rebuilds (and safety for the children if large trucks are driving up and down residential roads).
  • They liked both ideas for a trolley or monorail along state highway 90 (because it served the beachfront and tourists) and/or the CSX rail line (because it would be a reasonable walking distance from either side – north or south – of the city).

Other

  • They are concerned that there is no plan for housing with hurricane season starting and the FEMA deadline of February for using the temporary trailers.
  • The city has falsely alerted citizens regarding the hurricanes in the past and citizens are hesitant to leave.
  • Need to get the word out about these public meetings because not everyone has heard about the plans.
  • Reuse destroyed concrete as infill for low-lying areas without charge.  Currently, the city has a contract with an independent company to pulverize the concrete and sell it to anyone as infill.
  • The “Boat Graveyard” needs to be cleaned up or moved.
  • What about developing a village on stilts (similar to some island) where all the common areas create connectivity between the residential units and other uses?
  • From one vacation home owner (not permanent resident):  Wanted to eventually move to Biloxi, but since Katrina she is rethinking that idea.
  • Habitat for Humanity and Salvation Army plan to rebuild some residential houses which are comparable to existing character.
  • If landowner’s home was wiped out, they should be able to decide what to do: rebuild or sell, or other option.
  • Design for the next 100 years not the next 10 years.
  • Bring in dirt/infill to raise the flood prone areas.
  • They are concerned about future evacuations of older people and fixed income households.
  • There was a concern about having pets in mid-rise buildings because of the lack of yards or rules against pets (many residents have pets).
  • Need a hurricane proof animal shelter or a better plan for evacuation of animals.
  • Man with house at 22ft. elevation will sell for the right price (money talks).

 

Summary of First Public Meeting
Living Cities Planning for East Biloxi

 

The first of five planned public meetings as part of the East Biloxi planning effort by Living Cities was held Thursday, April 27 at the East Biloxi Community Center on Howard Street.

More than 60 people attended and participated actively in the evening’s program.  Living Cities is a national nonprofit organization working with 17 major private foundations to improve urban neighborhoods.  They’ve been asked by Mayor Holloway to assist in developing an action plan for rebuilding East Biloxi.

Consultants from Goody Clancey, a group working with Living Cities, presented maps and other information.  This first meeting was devoted to sharing the information we have on current conditions in East Biloxi, current and planned development, and flood level issues.  The audience worked in small groups to identify concerns they have, questions that need answers, and information that may be needed to complete a good plan.

Here’s a sampling of their group dialogue:

Questions that need answers:

. how many housing units will be displaced by casino development/expansion?
. when will the flood elevation levels be adopted and what will be their impact?
. what is the “smart code”?
. how will downtown development affect the rest of East Biloxi?
. what support for neighborhoods, such as shopping and services will there be?
. how will HUD participate?
. what will be the effect of casino expansion on existing, limited capacity in
sewer and water systems?
. what kind of zoning changes are anticipated?

Concerns:

. need a place where individuals can get their specific questions answered
. rental properties being purchased and renters with no voice
. debris not being picked up
. FEMA never updated Biloxi’s flood information
.  the need for walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods around casinos
. need creative housing options, such as tall narrow houses for narrow lots

What’s needed:

An overall vision for East Biloxi to guide the development of specific plan concepts.
. quality of life/safety committee
. loss of  history – how to regain

 

The next meeting will be held on Thursday, May 4, at 6 p.m. at the Howard Street Community Center with an open house from 5 – 6 p.m.  The agenda for the meeting will focus on further examination of available information and initial identification of the elements of a plan.

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