Streets, waterfront guidelines, other issues on agenda tonight

The Biloxi City Council this evening is expected to consider a new set of standards and guidelines that could transform the city’s waterfront, with guidance for future public and private development.

However, at the outset of the 6 p.m. meeting, during the mayor’s report, councilmembers will hear a report from Walt A. Rode, the city’s infrastructure project manager, on efforts to mitigate the condition of roads in east Biloxi, which were deluged by three inches of rainfall over the weekend.  Also scheduled for this evening: a plan to formally increase the size of Ward 7 for the 2017 municipal elections, and a proposal to borrow $7 million to fund capital improvements in the Woolmarket area.

The waterfront design standards, meanwhile, have been in the works for months. No opposition was presented during a public hearing last week, and one waterfront property owner, the operators of Margaritaville, supported the idea. 

The standards, which require no public funding, would help architects and engineers design projects in the future, to encourage design for public access and enjoyment of waterfront activities and seascape through designs that are people-friendly and evoke iconic Biloxi. 

The ordinance includes picture examples of architectural themes for buildings, boardwalks and piers, but construction will primarily be concrete and steel.

One key component touted by Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich is a 25-foot setback along the edge of the water that would be crucial to fire and life safety as well as for patrons of businesses on the waterfront. The setback will also preserve the view of the seascape all along the waterfront, which is essential to attracting more family entertainment development.

Gilich envisions a concrete and consistent boardwalk stretching all the way from DeBuys Road to Point Cadet and wrapping around the Biloxi peninsula to Back Bay. The boardwalk would be constructed once funding becomes available, through either Tidelands grants or other funding.

The ordinance also has other public safety standards:  all utilities must be underground; no laser lights piercing the night sky.

The city’s Planning Commission and staff, Development Review Commission and ultimately the mayor and City Council would be part of the process to oversee construction, a process that is currently in place.

With the thought of future hurricanes in mind, the ordinance recommends concrete materials for most construction, to avoid floating debris in storm surges.  Harrison County has already installed many stretches of concrete boardwalks south of Highway 90, but there are gaps that Mayor Gilich would like to complete through joint action with the County, if funds become available through Tidelands or other grants.

Said Gilich: “Improvements to public access and family activities along Biloxi’s waterfront are crucial to Biloxi’s future tourism economy.  It would be unrealistic for Biloxi to expect to attract new visitors while avoiding improvements for public use of the waterfront out of fear of storms.  Biloxi, like all Coast cities, must re-build smarter and stronger, but it must be itself–an historic waterfront community that honors the past and embraces the future.”
See the City Council meeting agenda and supporting documents
See images of the waterfront and what could be

News and notes

Temporary gym closure #1: The Parks and Recreation Department will temporarily close the gym at the Donal M. Snyder Sr. Community Center from Monday, Dec. 19 through Monday, Dec. 26 for floor maintenance. The gym will re-open for public use on Tuesday, Dec. 27.  To learn more about the  Snyder center, click here

Temporary gym closure #2: The parks and Recreation Department will temporarily close the Mercy Cross gym also for floor maintenance on Monday, Dec. 26 through Monday, Jan. 2, 2017.  The gym will re-open for public use on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017.  To learn more about the Mercy Cross Recreation Center, click here.