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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. — Ellis Anderson is relieved. She's dodged one bullet. But she doesn't know how many more are ready to be fired.

Anderson is leading the fight against the "condo-ization" of Bay St. Louis' Old Town arts district, where quaint old businesses and even quainter, older homes have long drawn tourists and art enthusiasts to the edge of the beachfront.

Big-time developers have hungrily eyed the area since it started to rise in prominence over the last few years, hoping to lure well-off new folks to town for the view and the gambling.

Anderson, a jewelry maker, and painter Lori Gordon pulled together Coastal Community Watch in May to fight the developers, and the group is in a court battle over its appeal of a zoning change that would allow a condominium and casino complex in nearby Clermont Harbor. I checked back in with Anderson on Friday, three weeks after my colleague Mike Brunker visited her.

A couple of weeks ago, word spread that the Bay St. Louis Zoning and Planning Board was set to consider zoning changes in industrial areas, which includes most of Old Town, this coming Monday. The gist of the language suggested by the City Council would combine classifications for commercial and high-density residential, which, to many folks, suggested condominium towers and the end of the small-town community feel, the historic buildings and the beach views.

CCW got cracking. Dozens of members and sympathizers showed up at the City Council meeting this week and talked it into reconsidering. The zoning meeting will go ahead, but only so the city won't have to publish another public notice, and the idea is expected to die quietly.

But the bigger battle goes on. There's still the lawsuit over a planned condominium development in Clermont Harbor, which was met with a countersuit by development interests. Arguments scheduled for Oct. 13 were postponed because of Hurricane Katrina.

And there's always the fear that Bay St. Louis could agree to zoning variances for big developers. Those developers are widely rumored to include Las Vegas casino interests, though nobody's been able to smoke them out.

Tish Williams, executive director of the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce, told me she knows of nothing specific going on so far from big developers who might see the reconstruction of the downtown district as an opportunity.

But Anderson and her cohort aren't taking the lack of a clear signal of interest as an indication that condo developers aren't working quietly behind the scenes. "Who knows what's going to happen now?" she asked.

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18 COMMENTS

I truly hope the handwritting on the walls this time will be done in disappearing ink. It's going to be interesting to see how much of the Gulf Coast will be eaten up by large dense condos and casinos. Cities: if you do go this route, I suggest that they not be elligible for FEMA grants the next time around. When will we learn that we don't truly own this earth, we are just leasing. We need small communities with spirit and style, not cookie cutter buildings.

That last comment is silly. It is simply not possible with the population of humans on this planet for everyone to live in "small communities with spirit and style." If that poster supports smaller communities, then population reduction should be her goal instead of being against condo communities which can be more energy efficient than hundreds of homes spread out over large tracts of land.

Brian, I agree with Phylis. Restoring a downtown,is much better than high rises. As Joni Mitchell said in the 60s. Today they tore down paradise to build a parking lot!

I wouldn't drive 10 miles to see a high rise,..but I would drive alot more to see a quaint, peaceful stretch near the ocean that wasn't over-built with steel and concrete. You have to get this. I realize you are in San Francisco... there is a reason the homes in the Hamptons are so expensive. . There are no high rises, and you can still see the beaches because of it. Some of us value vistas!

If you have ever been to the Great Lakes, you do realize there are still some areas of the world that are clean, peaceful, and there's no need to drive over 65!

To ravage the Gulf Coast is nothing more than shear greed!

It seems that the "Almighty Dollar" always wins in the end, though hopefully this will not be the case here-but sorry folks...unlikely they (the developers and corrupt politicians that get big...and I mean BIG kickbacks from the corporations) will back away as if they want something they usually end up getting it. Forget the little guy, the one with little money to fight court battles as in the end with appeals and such, the one with the most money wins.

So many areas all across the country have been deemed "blight, a need for restoration to lure big business to increase the tax and revenue for the city, and many other excuses are being used" just so those greedy corporations can get what they want. Seems it has been this way for a very long time and I nor the rest of my family see it ending any time soon.

We wish you the best of luck in keeping your little community with the people with big hearts and good souls the way it is. As the one poster noted, we don't really think that it would be safe to build a bunch of high rise condos or casinos....UNLESS they are built to withstand MAJOR hurricanes or AT LEAST have a well, solidified storm shelter to house the occupants therein.

For the person who obviously is against "small town communities with spirit and style", obviously you have not lived in one, or are simply jealous you cannot make a life for yourself in one? Don't know your reason for being against small towns but they have a simple life charm that is truly good for the soul. People that are all crammed together, they have a higher level of stress. Lack of real privacy, lack of peace and quiet from neighbors' arguments, children making a rucuss in the early hours of the morning when there are other people that may enjoy sleeping in now and then, too many cars on the roads; well the "boxing people together" in large cubicles called condos is just not good for everyone, in fact most people. Maybe those who do not like to work in yards, those who don't want their children to be able to play in their own backyards, people who do not like to take walks without the smell of smog, people that do not own dogs or other pets because they cannot afford to or simply do not like them, well this may be good for them to be all "Boxed Up" in living conditions akin to a can of sardines. But, there are people who enjoy pet ownership and for their children to be able to run play in a real backyard with grass and with their dogs. Also, people that WANT a yard, a garden, a place to take country walks without having to smell other people's car smog, who want to hear the real sounds of nature such as bird song without the interuption of car horns....need I say more? I feel sorry for you that you have no idea what a "small community with spirit and style" is truly all about. Obviously like I said, you enjoy living all crammed in with a bunch of people; no real privacy, no yard of your own to work or garden to call your own where you can be proud to say you grew your own tomatoes, a place where you live in the bigger city and where you do not even know the name of your mail deivery people. I have seen some of these "big towns" where people simply walk over a person lying on the ground, too busy to stop and see if they are okay, or too paranoid, too selfish. Where the roads are so congested with people in a hurry to get to work, in such a hurry to get to work and in spite of the traffic NOT moving due to an accident ahead so do not bother asking the person pulled over to the side with an obviously broken down vehicle if they need help, or again just too selfish and/or paranoid to bother asking...this is what you get in a big city. Small town people can freely enjoy pet ownership, have a yard for their dogs to run in (Sorry folks but a condo is NO place for a dog...unless you have a yard with grass that is big enough for them to run in while you are away at work-and NOT a concrete slab that the condo owners have the audacity to call a patio-concrete is NO PLACE for a dog). Many condo associations charge "Pet Rent" too. Even the homeowners associations may charge this "Pet Rent". Cats also, for people that have cats, and many other pets, they do not want some Condo owner or association telling them what they can and cannot own as for pets, nor do they want to have to pay some ridiculous "pet rent". So again, need I say more about leaving the small towns alone? Thanks for posting my comment if you do. Enough destroying the "real America" with corporate greed. Leave the little towns that have the people with the biggest hearts alone to draw us who must live in these big cities "Human warehouses" for a reprieve (a visit/vacation) and a chance to breathe the fresh, clean air and enjoy those truly peaceful country walks without car horns blaring and smog!

We all like to atmoshere of Bay-Waveland; however, if the schemes proposed by the governor's group and the build it high bunch continues along with the irresponsible city officials then condos are the only type of construction that will be able to afford practical housing. If houses are raised as high as some of these people advocate, then the wind loads will drive foundation, piling, etc. costs beyond what people can pay. Only condo style construction with parking garage structures on lower levels will be practical.

The Last Poster was spoken by a true Californian. Living shoulder to shoulder is how San Francisco,CA. lives. I think it should be another pot calling for a black kettle. ;) A place for everyone, and everyone in their place. That would be nice.

Hmmmmmm, nothing against the gentleman from CA, but the writer obvioulsy has no clue as to the gracious life that used to be the Ms coast. One could hope that 200 years of style and charm will not be eradicated by high density coastal development but the hope would be slim.

face it, if FEMA raises the minimum building level to account for a 500 yr storm surge event the only buildings that WILL be allowed near the shore will have cast in place parking garages as the first two floors. Think of a low rent Miami Beach on stilts.

Good luck Ms. Once the state legislature let those casinos on land, we all new pandoras box had opened.

Do you think they will eventually change the name to Pass Hilton or Bay St Hyatt??

I,m not against condos but lets build them more inland rather than destroying waterfront areas and bird habitats. Condos do have their place; however the developers are grabbers of waterfront properties and destroyers of natural beauty lands.

The one true thing about the Gulf Coast of Mississippi is the fact that it is NOT FLORIDA! It is one of the few places on the Gulf of Mexico where you will find nothing but a stretch of old-time, historic, southern front-porch Homes with real down-to-earth classic southern-style charm! Our entire gulf coast was encompassed with some of the most unique, exquisite, beautiful homes in the real--built real tough, too. The fact of the matter is--we're only human--and this World is Bigger than us. Yes, it hurts sometimes to realize that we're not bigger then hurricanes, but we were built and made by God who created us with brains to face situations larger-than-life. We knew a hurricane was coming, and, for the most part, we got out of the way; too bad our homes (not mine, but our--as in the feeling of community with the state of MS) are stationed in a beautiful but dangerous place. The feeling the Mississippi Gulf Coast gave the driver-by was one of immense butterflies, joy, peace, comfort, and astounding amazement. No where else do I know near MS could you drive down a road with beautiful southern homes on one side of the road and a gorgeous view of the Gulf of Mexico on the other--nowhere(yes, maybe somewhere, but I was unaware)... Mississippi stood out above the rest because it was not another Florida (world-wide attraction vacation condominium resort with high rises as far as the eye can see). Mississippi's Gulf Coast had a feeling of "home," and it is very upsetting--especially for the citizens of the MS G Coast and those of Mississippi--to see our "homes" destroyed and our way of life being taken over by larger-than-life businesses and corporations whose main focus is "what's in it for me?..." Mississippi wants to remain Mississippi; MS does not want to become your next "Florida" nor your next location for your new Wal*Mart store. MS wishes to simply be what it has been for the last 150-300 years--"Mississippi." God Bless and take care! MS loves you.

San Francisco has at least as much "style and charm" as Bay St. Louis ever had. Both places are amazing and delightful, in their own way. Many urban dwellers have gardens and pets, too. Often they are educated about the environment and economics, just like small town residents, and think globally and about the future of mankind, instead of just their own ability to escape the ravages of "pet rent." Unfortunately, they do not have boiled peanuts, poor souls. (How is that guy doing?) I think everyone realizes the positives of a small-town lifestyle, which the misty-eyed poster from San Diego espouses, but all things come at a price.

You go, Chuck!

Read a little more carefully people. The discussion is about transforming what was a quaint, vanishing, and very human friendly area into Condos and Casinos. High density housing and gambling by developers who do not live there. The folks in Bay St. Louis are right to fight these 'developers'. The developers have no consideration for the residents of the area, have no intentions to consider quality of life, have no ethical standards in their business dealings, and have no sense of preservation, beauty, or public benefit. It is simply a matter of high rises for high dollars, with the developers taking the dollars in exchange for exploiting the beauty and charm of this are. These are not quaint SF brownstones they are wanting to build. These are ugly, high density apartment/condos. You can bet that they will also make them as tall as they can, to 'maximize their investment in land costs'. Fight on Bay St. Louis!

Haven't we learned the lessons from Katrina?? Why is anyone proposing building right along the shoreline when the next hurricane will simply blow through and wipe everything out again? Sane people would build further back from the beach.

It amazes me how concrete everyone wants the world to become. I've been to San Francisco and think it's a wonderful place. But so is a desolate desert or a small town comprised of farmers and bars. Condos isn't going to save the world. People all need their own style of environment to live in. But if we pave over everything there will be no environments left to choose from.

I am not against loft warehouse style condos being built in Bay St. Louis. Three stories ... no higher. Rebuild a quaint city within a city, small grocery store, cleaners etc.,restaurants,coffee shops, retail. The facade would meet the same architectural standards as the city itself. A high rise has already been approved FYI next to what was Trapani's Eatery which is also planning to rebuild.

At a time when this area so desperately needs housing in order to keep the people from leaving, why would this group continue to oppose low-rise condos? If something is not built to bring the people home and allow businesses to reopen, these towns can not afford to operate. As it is, the last town meeting I attended, mentioned that the money to run the city is almost gone. There are no property or sales taxes coming in. I am not suggesting this area become another Florida, but I do feel we have to progress with the times. The fight has always been the infrastructure could not support this type development. Well, the infrastructure has to been redesigned (thanks to Katrina) so why not prepare for some type of condo living while we have the federal government here to help us rebuild our towns? I moved to this community for the charm and I feel the charm can be maintained even if we allow low-rise condos. After Katrina, I visited Seaside and Watercolor, both areas have low-rise condos. This is one of the most harming areas I have visited. I even made a comment that I wish we could do something similiar in Bay St. Louis/Waveland. Things have changed in our area unfortunately, I hope we can, as a community, come together to rebuild a better community. God Bless everyone during the recovery and rebuilding process.

DON'T LET THE DEVELOPERS OR THE CHAMBER OF CONGRESS PLAY "STUPID". THEY KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THEY HAVE IN MIND. TURNING A CHARMING, OLD, ACCESSABLE, PUBLIC AREA INTO "THE LAND OF THE CONDO RICH" IS JUST WHAT THEY HAVE IN MIND. ALL THEY ARE WAITING TO DO IS HOPE THEAT NO ONE IS PAYING ATTENTION AND GO IN FOR THE KILL. IT'S JUST WHAT HAPPENED TO KEY WEST. IT'S NO LONGER FOR THE AVERAGE, MIDDLE INCOME AMERICAN TO ENJOY. BE VIGILANT, DON'T LET THEM HAVE IT.

The condo vultures, er, I mean developers, are EVERYWHERE along the coast. A friend of mine who is left with a slab on the beach in Biloxi told me they've approached every homeowner in that residential area.

I have no problem with developers moving in. Mississippi is full of small gracious little home towns and it wont hurt anything if a few of them along the gulf coast are transformed into something more metro. Unfortunately those samll towns we love do not drive an econonmy. Mississippi really needs a a large metropolitan area to drive the rest of the state economically. If it upsets you, then simple move to a town like Natches, Vicksburg, Laurel, or Oxford. They all have that southern moonlight and magnolia look to them. They offer wonderful small town atmospheres. The Coast is a treasured jewel in this state and the time of antibellum homes and old world charm is over. Why do we hang on to the past so hard in this state. That is not our way of life anymore. We need to consider the future and how we can benefit from progression. I like the fact that we are not the crazy and hectic towns found all over the U.S. but it wouldnt hurt if we designated three counties of eithy two to the benefit of Mississippi's economy, tourism industry,and business district. We need developement. We need condos, big business, and attractions to help fuel Mississippi.

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