A grassroots effort by residents of Bay St. Louis got a win last Tuesday when the developers of the controversial project withdrew their application hours before the Bay Planning & Zoning meeting began.
– By Maurice Singleton
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Public concern grew as word spread of a proposed development of a subdivision between Beach Boulevard and Third Street. It evolved into a movement and a website that voiced concerns about the potential damaging effects the development would have on the community, particularly the filling of wetlands, cutting down of ancient oak trees, increased traffic, and the additional burden to existing infrastructure.
The effort, coined Density for Dollars is Wrong, gained steam leading up to last Tuesday’s meeting, as yard signs were posted across the city over the past five or six weeks, and a flurry of letters were written to the Planning and Zoning Commission expressing opposition to the development.
The proposed subdivision request was for 40 house lots located between South Beach Boulevard and Third Street. Mandeville-based developers William Ward, Kyle Kent and Scott Ballard had presented the request to Bay St. Louis Planning and Zoning, and the proposal was being considered at the September 26 meeting.
“I think the developers listened to what was being said by the neighbors,” said Nikki Moon, one of the founders of the densityfordollars.com website. “The neighbors were saying, ‘Why don’t we wait to see what comes out of the Orion Company plan?’ The city and the Council are listening to all these developers. Let’s just take a pause and wait to see how they (Orion) see what our city may look like. This is what we should be doing first.”
“I think we’re going through growing pains, and we’re trying to navigate it the best we can,” said Josh Desalvo, Bay St. Louis City Council board president. “We’re working our way through it.”
Moon said that the City’s decision to hire Orion was a good one, and she was encouraged by the way the company involved local citizens. “We were able to give input, and we were able to ask questions,” said Moon.
“I am very proud of our city for hiring this company to advise us. Everybody had the opportunity to ask questions. What are we doing right and what are we doing wrong? I am really looking forward to seeing the Bay St. Louis 2045 Report that we should have later this year. Do they see more development? Do they see smaller development?”
She is also proud of the way citizens of Bay St. Louis spoke out about their concerns on the website. “This is a way they can be heard. This is a good website for our locals to participate. I think it will continue as long as we have developers come into our city. It’s like the development before on Ballentine and Central. I think that this site will help for any future development.
“I hope that the people who are voicing their opinion on this website will get excited about voting, whether it’s city elections or state elections,” said Moon. “To me, voting is the most important thing you can do, regardless of party. We should all be excited about voting. I hope that they keep that enthusiasm going, whether they want things to change or to keep them the same.”
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