BILOXI, MISS– Margaritaville Resort expansion plans have found a hiccup as Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and officials with the city of Biloxi have disagreed over zoning plans for the vacant property.
The property is the site of the former Casino Magic, which was blown away by Hurricane Katrina 11 years ago.
The conflict lies between a proposal to rezone the five acre plot to be a non-casino property.
Secretary Hosemann said this would be a mistake that could cost Mississippi taxpayers.
“It would remove the ability to have a casino on the property,” said Hosemann. “But it would also limit the Margaritaville development.”
Sec. Hosemann said Margaritaville developers would be limited because the land would have a 60-foot tall structure limit. Developers have proposed a 200-foot ferris wheel.
The main issue Sec. Hosemann stated was the potential loss of money generated from what the developers could be charged for the land.
“We’ll get less money,” said Sec. Hosemann. “For example, there was a proposal from the developer to lease at two dollars a foot. We currently have casinos next door leasing at $4.90 a foot.”
The difference is $25 million over 40 years, according to Sec. Hosemann.
“We don’t do sweetheart deals,” said Sec. Hosemann. “if they looking.. for a sweetheart deal, they’ll have to look somewhere else.”
District 117 House Representative Scott Delano serves Biloxi and Gulfport both as representative and commercial real estate agent, and said this isn’t a sweetheart deal, but business.
“This developer is only asking for what the Secretary of State granted the landowner directly to the left. Nothing more, nothing less,” said Rep. Delano. “If Delbert would present.. those lease terms for this developer, we would get the investment and the construction underway quickly.”
Rep. Delano said the overall goal is to attract family entertainment to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and by rezoning the land for non-casino use, they’re not prohibiting the resort developers from more expansion down the road.
“I would fully expect that any lease that would be presented to a developer on this property or any other property that is waterfront zoned,” said Rep. Delano. ” Would have a conversionary clause that would say the rent would be based at this rate, and if it’s ever converted to a casino, it would be accelerated to this rate.”
Secretary Hosemann also agreed that if Margaritaville ever wanted to add a casino, renegotiation could take place at that time. He added he is not working currently with any casino developer, nor is he opposed to family entertainment.
“I have four grandchildren, I don’t go to casinos,” said Sec. Hosemann. “We have been a strong proponent with staying one more day on the Coast with family entertainment. To say that we are in favor of gaming versus family is false, misleading, and makes me angry as fire. It’s a lie.”
The zoning commission will meet with Secretary Hosemann Thursday afternoon to further discuss this issue. News Mississippi will continue to follow this story.