GULFPORT — The dispute between city of Gulfport officials and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann over who controls the harbor in Gulfport is over.
Yesterday, city council members voted to sign an agreement between the city and secretary of state that says Gulfport owns all the dry land at the harbor.
The dispute has been going on for years, and ended up in court, but now all that’s over with.
“So the bottom line is today that we’ve set aside the lawsuit. We’ve settled it. We have a boundary agreement that establishes historic ownership that Gulfport’s always claimed the harbor and the state has acknowledged that ownership,” said City Council vice president Rusty Walker.
Another part of the agreement allows the city to continue using the water bottoms for boat slips for the next 65 years without any fees or oversight from the state. Also, the area that includes Jones Park and the entire harbor will continue to be used for public purposes.
The secretary of state has signed the agreement. The city council authorized the mayor to sign it; once that is done, all that remains is for the governor to sign it.
The dispute did not involve city-owned Jones Park, or the private and city-owned property on which a casino is proposed on the harbor’s west side.
The city, which has operated the harbor since 1935, sued Hosemann to retain ownership and control in 2011, after he declared his office should hold the water bottoms and surrounding property in trust for the public under state tidelands law. He wanted the city to sign a no-fee lease that gave his office authority to review and sign off on city plans for the harbor and surrounding property.
The city filed the lawsuit rather than sign the agreement. Other Coast localities did sign harbor agreements with Hosemann’s office.