By Hunter Dawkins
The table was set for a tense showdown before a packed house Tuesday evening as the Pass Christian Board of Aldermen prepared to address the Historic Preservation Committee’s decision to deny the city’s own controversial parking lot proposal, which is slated to be built in conjunction with Sazerac Group, LLC.
City attorney Malcolm Jones, however, urged the board to discuss the matter in executive session due to recent developments in litigation.
Earlier this year, city leaders took steps to subdivide a large parcel of land, which opens up onto Scenic Drive, to build a public parking lot. Homeowners Jeffrey and Amy Steiner are not happy with the city’s plan, claiming the development will shatter the peace in their historic beachfront neighborhood and fear property values will plummet by altering the residential zone.
The Steiners own the property adjacent to the green space. They say the city is in violation of local and state law because it did not give notice to the public or host a public hearing to discuss the intended project with residents.
The Steiners filed their complaint against the City of Pass Christian and Sazerac Group, LLC in the Harrison County Chancery Court in August, seeking an injunction prohibiting the city from developing.
Both the city and Sazerac Group have said they followed all proper procedures and the plan does not harm the Steiners’ property or interests in any way.
“We believe that we followed all the rules and all of the state laws regarding that and, as a result, we have every right to build a parking lot in the back and to use the front for overflow parking,” Jones said in September. “Now, it’s not going to be used all that often, to be honest, but that’s what the city’s position is.”
When aldermen returned from executive session on Tuesday, they voted unanimously to table the matter until their meeting on Oct. 23.
In other action Tuesday:
The Board of Aldermen heard from Ken Owens, the Sailing Development co-chair. Owens said his organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and asked whether it could store two small boats at the Pass Christian Harbor. Owens said that the group receives funds from grant programs rather than from the Pass Christian Yacht Club.
Ward 3 Alderman Anthony Hall asked Harbormaster Willie Davis if the slips were available. Davis said the city might have a space. Ward 4 Alderman Vic Pickich asked whether the city would face any liability over teaching children how to sail in a public harbor.
Alderman-At-Large Kenny Torgeson motioned to table discussion in the matter until the liability issues were resolved.
Pass Christian Police Chief Timothy Hendricks introduced the police department’s Citizen Review Committee. Newly-appointed chairman Mike Morgan stepped up to the podium to discuss the commit-tee’s goals with the Board of Aldermen.
Morgan said, “safety at home, safety in the neighborhood, and safety at events” would be the committee’s focus.
Hendricks said all members of the committee are volunteers.
Ward 2 Alderman Regina Charlot asked how the committee members were appoint-ed. Hendricks said he appoint-ed them.
Hall commended Hendricks for his efforts and said bridging the gap in Pass Christian through improved communication and getting to know the people would be a vital resource for the police department.