Bay council unable to vote on proposed boardwalk
By Dwayne Bremer
Jan 11, 2013, 18:12
The Bay St. Louis City Council was unable to vote Tuesday on a proposed zoning change which could pave the way for an ambitious boardwalk adjacent to the Washington Street Pier.
City Attorney Donald Rafferty said the council could not vote on the matter because three councilmen are members of the Bay St. Louis post of the American Legion, which is asking for the zoning change.
The council then asked Rafferty to seek an opinion from the state ethics commission about how to proceed.
The American Legion Post 139 had previously gained approval from the Bay St. Louis Planning and Zoning Commission for the zoning change.
The American Legion owns property south of Beach Blvd. and adjacent to the Washington Street Pier.
One idea for the property is to lease it to developers who will turn it into a boardwalk complete with shops, restaurants, and fishing supplies.
Developer Thomas Genin said Friday that the boardwalk will consist of nine businesses, which will complement the pier and Bay St. Louis harbor/marina project.
"It could be one of the coolest things on the Gulf Coast," Genin said. "I want to build a deck and then have a cluster of small businesses."
Genin said he already has commitments for a bait shop, snow ball stand, arcade, sushi and taco bar, and more.
"This idea was brought to me by people in the community," he said. "We have a unique opportunity with this property."
Genin said the boardwalk could attract thousands of people to the area every week and it could provide as many as 60 jobs.
Some, however, are not sold on the zoning change.
The project only narrowly gained approval from the planning and zoning commission by a 3-2 vote, and dozens of people showed up at the council meeting Tuesday to speak about the project. Some were for it, others against.
The property is currently zoned R-5 residential. The property on the opposite side of Washington Street where the pavilion and new comfort station are located is zoned commercial.
The American Legion is asking for a zoning change to allow mixed use commercial use.
Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame said Friday that since the American Legion property is a privately-owned parcel, it falls under the city's zoning ordinances.
Prior to the discussion on the zoning change Tuesday, Councilman-At-Large Billy Taylor excused himself from the meeting because he is a board member of American Legion Post 139.
Ward Four Councilman Bobby Compretta and Ward One Councilman Doug Seal are also members. Ward Five Councilman Ray Kidd was absent due to illness, so if Seal and Compretta both excused themselves from the meeting, than there would only have been three council members left.
By state law, there must be at least four council members present before any vote can take place.
Rafferty said Seal and Compretta did not participate in any of the American Legion's discussions about the lease of the property, but he felt it could give the impression of impropriety if they voted on the zoning change.
The council then asked Rafferty to contact the state ethics commission to see how to proceed.
Rafferty said Thursday that he has contacted the ethics commission and he hopes to have an answer by the beginning of next month.
He said he also asked the commission if a special meeting could be held where Kidd was present via telephone.
Fillingame said the council will most likely revisit the zoning change next month.