Ocean Springs East Beach pathway permit survives challenge

March 17, 2010

BILOXI, Miss.

The state Commission on Marine Resources upheld its decision to issue a permit for a 3,470-foot-long paved pathway along East Beach Drive in Ocean Springs.

On Tuesday, the commission rejected a petition from Ocean Springs residents Davis Harris Jr., Davis Harris Sr., Vecie Harris and Clyde Gunn to reconsider its decision in February to issue a permit for the pathway.

The city of Ocean Springs plans to build the 6½-foot wide sidewalk with a six-inch curb along the waterfront from Holcomb Boulevard to Halstead Road.

David Harris, an attorney who said his parents are among the petitioners, asked the commission to vacate its February decision as a practical issue and cited pending litigation challenging the ownership of the coastal wetlands property. The lawsuit in Hinds County is against the Secretary of State and the city of Ocean Springs, he said.

“If the permit is allowed to stand, it is going to cause an appeal to the chancery court of Jackson County, which is going to entail a lot of time and resources not only for these petitioners, but from the department,” said Harris.

In February, Commissioner Richard Gollott said the commissioners should approve the permit and let the courts work the dispute out.

“If we vacate this, I’ve been told after the fact, after the (February) meeting, you all plan to stall, delay until the funds disappear,” said Gollott at Tuesday’s meeting.

Harris said the federal stimulus money is committed for three-, five- and 10-year periods. “The only requirement is the money is obligated within a certain period of time,” he said.

Gollott said he understands the objection to the path.

“But, I still don’t think the commission needs to get involved in this any more than what we have to,” he said. “I think we need to let this go ahead and go through the court system.”

The city received $540,000 in federal stimulus money for the project, but the construction bid for the project was $450,000. The city cannot use the difference between the funding and the actual cost, said Mayor Connie Moran.

Commissioner Steve Bosarge determined from Harris that the petitioners claim property on about 1,000 feet of the proposed path.

Voting to uphold the permit were commissioners Vernon Asper, Gollott, Shelby Drummond and Bosarge. Commissioner Jimmy Taylor abstained citing his absence from the February meeting.

By Harlan Kirgan

News from The Mississippi Press 

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