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Hosemann: My Job ‘is Protecting the Sand Beach’

July 29, 2008

By Mary Perez, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

Jul. 29–BILOXI — Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said he didn’t contradict the Mississippi Gaming Commission’s ruling and RW Development doesn’t have control of the sand beach to build South Beach Casino.

“I see it as public property,” he said of a strip of land between the property owned by RW Development south of U.S. 90 and the water. “My position is and will be that the sand beach is public.”

Back from a brief vacation, Hosemann said he hasn’t read the Gaming Commission’s ruling that denied South Beach Casino, but he did learn of the controversy about a letter he sent to the Mississippi Gaming Commission. The letter was delivered to the commission during the July 17 meeting for South Beach Casino but wasn’t read to the public during the meeting.

Hosemann wrote the letter to the Gaming Commission “for their use,” and because he wanted to clarify the public trust boundary used for tidelands. The secretary of state and the Gaming Commission operate under different laws and Hosemann said, “I think that’s why there’s some confusion here.”

His correspondence “was not intended to support or for that matter to contradict any ruling of the Gaming Commission.”

Hosemann said he outlined what Mississippi code says about the sand beach and his responsibilities as secretary of state, “which is protecting the sand beach.”

He was a colleague of the lawyers arguing the case for South Beach Casino. Hosemann was a partner with Danny McDaniel at Phelps Dunbar and worked on a case with Michael Cavanaugh. They maintained the high mean water line was the seawall and since the beach is man-made, the RW property abuts the toe of the seawall, making it a legal casino site.

The commission ruled the mean high water line is where the water meets the shore and as secretary of state, “We’re going to assume that we are responsible for everything from the seawall out, including the sand,” he said.

The commission left the door open to the possibility of casino development in the South Beach area if the other sites approved for casinos can’t be developed, but Hosemann said, “I would be very surprised if the Mississippi Legislature gives away any of the sand beach and I’d be opposed to it.”

He doesn’t have a proposal from either the developer or the Gaming Commission to lease the strip of sand beach so South Beach Casino can be built.

“My position is and will be that the sand beach is public and whatever is on it is sustainable and meets the culture of the Coast,” Hosemann said.

Definitions

These are definitions of sand beach and tidelands issues used by the Mississippi Gaming Commission and Secretary of State:

Lease (tidelands): An interest in public trust tidelands designated by a contract creating a landlord-tenant relationship between the state of Mississippi as landlord or lessor and the applicant. The secretary of state, with the approval of the governor, grants the use, possession and control of public trust tidelands for a set number of years, with conditions attached, at a specified rental.

Littoral: Pertaining to property abutting an ocean, sea or lake rather than a river or stream.

Mean high water: The intersection of the tidal datum plane with the shore. The Gaming Commission ruled it was where the water meets the sand or where you get wet.

Public access: Direct and free access by members of the public to the lands and waters.

Riparian rights: Pertaining to property abutting a river or stream rather than the ocean or sea.

Tidelands: Lands which are daily covered and uncovered by water by the action of the tides, up to the mean line of the ordinary high tides.

Upland: Land which is above the mean high tide line; dry land.

– MISSISSIPPI SECRETARY OF STATE

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

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