August 5, 2008

Hancock County Condos Get Preliminary Approval

By J.R. Welsh, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

Aug. 5--BAY ST. LOUIS -- After months of indecision, Hancock County supervisors gave preliminary approval Monday to the first large-scale, waterfront condominium development in the unincorporated county.

A green light by the board means developer Mike Felter can get down to business in building Jourdan River Resort and Yacht Club at the end of Nicola Road, along the river north of Interstate 10 and east of Mississippi 603.

"We want to be a good neighbor," Felter said after his proposal passed the board on a 3-2 vote, with Supervisors Jay Cuevas and David Yarborough opposing the development. "This is a project Hancock County can be proud of."

Aside from Diamondhead, Jourdan River Resort will be the county's first large-scale development with condominiums approved for the higher ground north of the interstate. Bay St. Louis officials gave approval last year for another mega-condo project farther down the river, but construction has yet to begin.

Jourdan River Resort will feature 472 condominiums to be built on 269 acres. A yacht club will be included, along with other amenities. The project could cost as much as $200 million, Felter said, and was scaled back from an original proposal for more than 1,000 units.

The development had a long wait for approval. It was twice recommended by the Planning and Zoning Commission, but was originally turned down by supervisors last year. They also delayed voting on the issue several times in recent months.

The development met stiff resistance from nearby landowners, who questioned the validity of a 60-foot right of way Felter plans to use as an entrance to the project.

Supervisors placed several conditions on their approval Monday, most notably a requirement that the developers pay to widen Nicola Road enough to handle maximum traffic anticipated when the project is complete. The road is now less than 20 feet wide.

Cuevas represents landowners in the area of the development. He said following the meeting that residents had expressed fears of increased car and boat traffic along Nicola Road and on the river. He also did not feel that developers had established proper proof that a 60-foot right of way exists up to the property.

"I don't want to destroy the quality of life for the people out there," Cuevas said. "We were there to act on what was presented. They didn't present a good enough case for me to vote for it."

Felter said he plans to move quickly on the project. "Now we'll complete the engineering and move forward with site work," he said.

How they voted Hancock County supervisors' votes on the development:

In favor: Steve Seymour, Lisa Cowan, Rocky Pullman

Against: David Yarborough and Jay Cuevas


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