By Leigh Coleman
Gulfport, MS (November 21, 2009)- Mayor George Schloegel, City Council members, zoning and planning commission members, and police and fire officials took a bus tour around Gulfport on Saturday to get a look at the effects of planning decisions. Before the tour began, Schoegel told city leaders what they were about to see was not one person’s fault.
“You may be surprised at some of the things you see but the zoning and planning issues are just things that have evolved over time,” Schoegel said. “Some areas of our city have an absolute lack of planning and someone can just come in here and build whatever they want with our present set of rules.”
After about three hours seeing structures built with low-quality materials, concrete-style buildings with no architectural appeal, vacant lots, empty buildings and cookie-cutter housing projects, city leaders said a new way of dealing with planning and code enforcement is at hand. “We are going in the wrong direction,” Schloegel said. “The supply far exceeds the demand.”
City planners said some problems were inherited. “The overcrowding of signage on Highway 49 and the zoning issues in this area were here when it was annexed in 1994,” said planner Greg Holmes.
Two solutions for better planning are the new Environmental Court and a Design Review Committee. The new court was put into place about two weeks ago to streamline the city’s code-enforcement cases. It will deal with derelict properties, tree-ordinance violations, vandalism, building- and fire-code violations and other issues.
Councilwoman Libby Milner-Roland said the city has been too trusting when it comes to believing developers will do the right thing. “I guess in the past we have been too naÃ¯ve when it comes to believing builders when they tell us they are going to use the right materials and make the property appealing,” she said.
Sun Herald- Mayor gives a tour of Gulfport- Points out planning failures