Land swap at OS harbor is 'dead' says DMR director
By Steve Phillips
By Steve Phillips
A controversial land swap involving the DMR and property at the Ocean Springs harbor is a dead deal.
The Department of Marine Resources had considered trading a boat shed and restaurant building it owns at the harbor, for some undeveloped property on Biloxi's Back Bay.
Several Ocean Springs residents had spoken out against the deal at recent Commission on Marine Resources meetings.
The DMR purchased the boat shed and Harbor Landing property several years ago with CIAP (Coastal Impact Assistance Program) money. That's the same federal program that's attracted the attention of federal and state auditors, who have been reviewing past CIAP-funded projects administered by the DMR.
The land swap involved trading a large boat shed and the vacant Harbor Landing restaurant building at the Ocean Springs harbor for undeveloped land on Biloxi Bay. It's been under consideration for several months, but plans have now changed.
"We just never could get all the legal paperwork done to make, to really consider that. So, we are now preparing a bid package to go out for contractors to bid on removing the boat storage shed," said DMR Executive Director Dr. Bill Walker.
That should come as good news to residents who recently raised objections to the land swap.
"We are appalled that our city politicians are supporting a land swap of some wetlands here in Biloxi," said Ocean Springs resident Bruce Duckett, when speaking out at the September CMR meeting.
The plan called for swapping property and keeping the harbor boat shed open. The latest plan will see it torn down.
"Our plan now is to go back to the original plan. Take that building down and work with the city and county to see how we might could develop that property to help them with whatever they want to do at the harbor," said Dr. Walker.
The DMR director had "no comment" on the audits of DMR records. Again, those reviews have focused on the CIAP funds and projects which include the DMR's original purchase of the land at Ocean Springs Harbor. The DMR paid around $3.5 million for the harbor properties.
Copyright 2012 WLOX. All rights reserved.