Survey: 80 percent of Biloxians satisfied with city direction, progress

More than 80 percent of Biloxians think the city is on the right track, and just as many people say they are satisfied with ongoing progress of the city’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

The results are from a poll of 500 Biloxi residents made by Market Research Insight, a company that has conducted more than 5,000 public opinion surveys over 30 years.

Dr. Verne Kennedy, who conducted the survey, says it has a 4.5 percent error factor, meaning it has a more than 95 percent accuracy rate compared to a survey of every single resident of the city.

“Biloxi citizens were very responsive,” Kennedy said, “and only 54 people who listened long enough to learn what the survey was about declined to participate.”

Mayor A.J. Holloway said he was pleased that Biloxians felt the city was headed in the right direction, but he noted the survey also pointed out areas of continuing concern.

For instance, the ongoing debate over new residential development was reflected in the survey:

— 50 percent of the respondents felt satisfied with the quality of new residential developments in Biloxi, while 32 percent were dissatisfied and nearly 19 percent were uncertain.

— 62 percent favored rebuilding using “scattered site” low-income homes, with 30 percent in opposition and 8 percent uncertain.

Top issues with Biloxians: more affordable housing (15 percent), improving traffic flow (12 percent), and more business development and jobs (8 percent). Notably, 12 percent were uncertain about the most important issue.

The survey represents the completion of the first phase of the city’s update of its comprehensive plan, a policy statement that guides future growth and development in the city, and considers such quality-of-life issues as transportation, housing, land use, recreation and historic preservation.

The year-long comprehensive plan process is being guided by Wallace Roberts and Todd, a planning firm that has done extensive work in Baltimore; Charleston County and Hilton Head, South Carolina; Coral Springs, Fla., East Hampton, NY, and other cities.

This process will include numerous public hearings and outreach, and it will be followed up with an update of the city’s Land Development Ordinance, which will help facilitate goals identified in the comprehensive plan.

The entire process is expected to cost about $650,000 and will be funded by grants.

Among the other results of the poll:

— 60 percent of respondents were satisfied with the quality of commercial developments in Biloxi; 33 percent were dissatisfied and 7 percent were uncertain. Of the 33 percent dissatisfied: 17 percent said there was too much commercial development, 16 percent said too many condominiums were being built, and 15 percent felt there were too many casinos and “didn’t like gambling.”

— 20 percent of the respondents said the friendly people and Southern hospitality were the things they liked best about Biloxi, while 13 percent said they like the proximity to the water and another 13 percent said they were “born in Biloxi or it feels like home.”

— Among the biggest concerns about Biloxi’s rebuilding: affordable housing (10 percent), the slow pace of recovery and lack of rebuilding along the beach front (8 percent), affordable homeowner’s insurance (8 percent).and three issues at 7 percent each: too many casinos, too many condos, and poor roads and traffic congestion. Of note, 9 percent were uncertain of their biggest concern about Biloxi’s rebuilding.

— 73 percent of the respondents favored mixed residential and commercial development for east Biloxi, while 19 percent thought resorts should dominate east Biloxi.

— 65 percent of those surveyed favored relocating the CSX railway.

— Three-quarters of those surveyed felt Back Bay Boulevard should be extended to U.S. 90 on Point Cadet.

To see the complete survey and its results, click here.