Mississippi City Officials Target Blighted Properties

November 1, 2011

The city of Biloxi, Miss., starts this week to work with commercial property owners to clean up neglected buildings.

Six years after Hurricane Katrina, Biloxi officials are ready to prod commercial property owners into doing something with their neglected buildings.

The Sun Herald reports the city is starting with six East Biloxi properties mostly in the downtown. The city council meets Tuesday.

Jerry Creel, community development director, says instead of taking property owners to county court, the cases go directly to city council for a public hearing.

Among the properties are a former Hancock Bank building, a Copeland’s restaurant, an abandoned federal building and an old seafood building near IP and Boomtown casinos.

The city got authority from the Legislature to clean commercial buildings and multi-family housing complexes that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Creel said as title searches are completed on additional buildings, the properties will be brought to the council in groups of six to 10.

“They have to be repaired to the extent they are habitable again. The purpose of this law is to motivate the owner to do something with the building,” he said.

If the owner won’t fix or demolish the building, the city can step in to have the work done by city employees or by contract. The city can recover its expense plus a penalty of $2,000, interest and court and attorney fees. The assessment will have to be satisfied before the property owner can pay the real estate taxes.

The new law should help get action on buildings still boarded up throughout the city, but won’t apply to the uncompleted casino on the beach in East Biloxi. Creel said the shell was built by Caesar’s Entertainment after Katrina and doesn’t qualify.

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