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Coliseum project prompts eminent domain proceedings

BILOXI — If Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center officials get their wish, there will be no more homes on Oakwood Drive in Biloxi.

Several years ago, officials acquired six properties on the end of the street to make room for the convention center expansion and recently they began trying to acquire the remaining 14 homes there, either through sale or eminent domain.

Robert Byrd, an attorney for the Coliseum Commission, tells The Sun Herald three properties are the subject of eminent domain proceedings filed in Harrison County Court.

Byrd says the Oakwood properties are wanted for about 400 new parking spaces and he is unaware of any plans to use the property for any other purpose.

Finding places to park has been difficult at the convention center since it expanded, especially when several events are going on at the same time on the property, Byrd said.

The news doesn’t sit well with homeowners up and down the street. Some said they feel they’re being “low-balled” on the property, as real estate values are presently low. Byrd said one property was bought for the asking price of about $75,000, and one brought about $125,000, but it had a neighborhood-business zoning, which made it worth more. Other appraisals are pending, he said.

A constitutional amendment to prevent governments from getting land to give to another person or a business is on the statewide ballot for the November general elections. A recent lawsuit filed by the head of the Mississippi Development Authority seeks to prevent that vote from happening.

MDA, Gov. Haley Barbour and other officials have opposed such limits on eminent domain. They contend those regulations would hamper efforts to recruit industry.

Source: The Sun Herald

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