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The City of Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Comprehensive Plan

“Designing for the Future”

 

Adopted: June 19, 2001


 

 


                                                       Table of Contents

I.  Introduction..................................................................................................................... 1

Why Plan?........................................................................................................................... 1

What is in the Comprehensive Plan?................................................................................. 2

What Do These Terms Mean?.......................................................................................... 3

How Should the Plan Be Used?.......................................................................................... 3

Coordination........................................................................................................................ 4

Who Implements the Plan?................................................................................................ 4

 

II.  Context for Planning................................................................................................. 5

Historical Development...................................................................................................... 6

The Role of Planning.......................................................................................................... 7

Public Participation............................................................................................................. 8

 

III.  Community Vision....................................................................................................... 11

Planning Themes............................................................................................................... 11

Plan Issues........................................................................................................................ 12

 

IV.  Environmental Assessment................................................................................. 14

Topography....................................................................................................................... 14

Geology............................................................................................................................. 14

Hydrology.......................................................................................................................... 14

Water Quality................................................................................................................... 15

Climate.............................................................................................................................. 15

 

V.  Community Growth.................................................................................................... 16

Population.......................................................................................................................... 16

Housing............................................................................................................................. 17

Economic Growth.............................................................................................................. 19

Income............................................................................................................................... 20

 

VI.  Land Use............................................................................................................................ 21

Planning Areas.................................................................................................................. 21

Critical Neighborhoods..................................................................................................... 29

Economic Development.................................................................................................... 30

Transitional Neighborhoods............................................................................................. 32

Preservation of Residential Areas................................................................................... 33

Substandard Housing........................................................................................................ 33

Preservation of Historic Areas........................................................................................ 36

In-fill Development........................................................................................................... 41

Growth Management and Resource Conservation........................................................ 42

Annexation........................................................................................................................ 45

Land Use Categories........................................................................................................ 46

 

VII.  Community Design and Identification........................................................ 56

Community Appearance................................................................................................... 57

Site Design........................................................................................................................ 57

 

VIII.  Community Services and Facilities.............................................................. 59

Transportation.................................................................................................................. 61

Water System................................................................................................................... 71

Wastewater System.......................................................................................................... 76

Stormwater Management................................................................................................. 77

Law Enforcement.............................................................................................................. 78

Fire Protection/EMS......................................................................................................... 80

Parks and Recreation....................................................................................................... 82

Arts & Culture.................................................................................................................. 88

Schools.............................................................................................................................. 89

 

IX - Goals, Policies and Recommendations........................................................ 97

Land Use........................................................................................................................... 97

Transportation................................................................................................................ 105

Community Facilities and Growth Coordination........................................................... 109

 

X - Plan Implementation and Administration............................................... 115

Plan Monitoring & Amendment..................................................................................... 115

Plan Monitoring.............................................................................................................. 115

Policy Revisions.............................................................................................................. 115

Land Use Plan Amendments.......................................................................................... 116

Implementation Program................................................................................................ 116

Descriptions of Implementation Strategies................................................................... 116

 

 


 


                                                          List of Exhibits

 

Ocean Springs Planning Area Map............................................................................................. 10

Planning Areas Map..................................................................................................................... 22

Historic District Map................................................................................................................... 37

Existing Land Use Map................................................................................................................ 52

Future Land Use Map.................................................................................................................. 53

Transportation System Map........................................................................................................ 63

Parks and Recreation Facilities Map.......................................................................................... 87

School District Map...................................................................................................................... 90

 


I.  Introduction

 

This document is a statement of the community's vision for its own future and a guide to achieve that vision through the year 2020.  The view of the future expressed in the Comprehensive Plan is shaped by local community values, ideals and aspirations about the best management and use of the community's resources.

 

The Plan uses text, maps and diagrams to establish policies and programs which the City may use to address the many physical, economic and social issues facing the community.  Thus, the Plan is a tool for managing community change to achieve the desired quality of life.

 

Why Plan? 

Successful communities do not just happen; they must be continually shaped and guided.  A community must actively manage its growth and respond to changing circumstances if it is to continue to meet the needs of its residents and retain the quality of life that initially attracted those residents to the community. 

 

Residents of Ocean Springs value the high quality of the natural environment, the character and diversity of their neighborhoods, the quality of public services, the cultural resources and breadth of recreational opportunities, as well as the strong sense of “community.”  Concern about the impact of new growth has increased as residents have experienced increased traffic congestion, school crowding, commercial encroachment on neighborhoods and the inappropriate development of natural, open areas.  Effective growth management can help the community address each of these concerns. 

 

The City recognizes the importance of coordinating growth management efforts with Jackson  County and adjacent communities.  Much of the recent growth is located within the unincorporated portions of the Planning Area.  By shifting urban and suburban service demands to areas that lack adequate services and facilities, this growth threatens to create detrimental fiscal impacts in addition to its impacts on the character of urban and rural areas.  The City and County must develop a joint strategy for growth management to make efficient use of both valuable infrastructure that is already in place, and to prevent unnecessary loss of the surrounding open space areas where such infrastructure is not yet in place.  A good plan and effective plan implementation measures can curb the trend towards sprawl development and promote appropriate and available infill development and redevelopment.  While allowing appropriate development opportunities in outlying areas, this plan seeks to promote development and economic growth in areas that can be effectively and efficiently served by public facilities and utilities.

 


This Comprehensive Plan, once adopted and effectuated consistently and carefully, also will strengthen the partnership between the public and private sectors.  This partnership can achieve infinitely more for both parties than either acting alone.  An important premise of an effective comprehensive plan is that it creates a “win/win” situation for the public and private sectors, for existing and new neighborhoods, for economic development and open space land conservation, and for fiscal integrity and enhanced quality of life.

 

What is in the Comprehensive Plan? 

This Comprehensive Plan focuses on land use and development issues facing Ocean Springs, Mississippi.  The following listing of chapters outlines the major areas covered by the Comprehensive Plan

 

         Section II - Context for Planning summarizes existing conditions, trends and issues facing the community and establishes the setting for the Plan.  It summarizes historical development and community values.

 

         Section III - Community Vision defines a vision for the community’s future that is the basis for the Plan’s recommendations.  The most significant aspect of Ocean Springs’ planning process has been the high level of citizen involvement.  The City's outreach program included focus group meetings, interviews, numerous public workshops, press releases and newsletters, in an effort to inform the public and to capture the thoughts, ideas, hopes and desires of the community.  Community values set priorities for community action and plan implementation.

 

         Section IV - Environmental Assessment identifies natural environmental factors and  physical constraints and opportunities that affect development within the planning area.

 

         Section V - Community Growth identifies demographic characteristics and trends, regulatory considerations, public facilities and services.

 

         Section VI - Land Use establishes major Plan elements upon which goals, objectives and policies were based which address issues related to existing and future land use, the planning area and planning neighborhoods.

 

       Section VII - Community Design and Identification establishes the basis upon which goals, objectives and policies were identified to define public and private responsibilities for the enhancement of Ocean Springs’ built environment.

 

       Section VIII - Community Facilities and Services Element defines the city’s role as a service provider and in partnerships with other service providers for the provision of facilities and services and define public and private responsibilities for the provision of facilities.

 

         Section IX - Goals, Policies and Recommendations identifies specific goals and policies for key planning components.


 

         Section X - Plan Implementation and Administration outlines a schedule of recommended strategies or tasks needed to implement the Plan’s goals.  It also describes the processes for monitoring and amending the Plan to ensure that it continues to address vital community issues.

 

What Do These Terms Mean? 

The following terms are used throughout the Plan to convey key  concepts:

 

Development.  The physical construction of buildings and/or the preparation of land for non-agricultural uses.  Development activities include: subdivision of land; construction or alteration of structures, roads, utilities, and other facilities; installation of septic systems; grading; deposit of refuse, debris, or fill materials; and clearing of natural vegetative cover.

 

Goal.  Description of a desired state of affairs for the community in the future. Goals are the broad public purposes toward which policies and programs are directed.  Generally, more than one set of actions (policies) may be needed to achieve each goal.  In this Plan, goals are phrased to express the desired results of the Plan; they complete the sentence "Our goal is ...."

 

Policy.  Statements of government intent against which individual actions and decisions are evaluated.  Policies typically indicate the agency primarily responsible for implementing the policy.

 

Strategy.   Individual tasks or accomplishments which, taken together, will enable the City to achieve Goals and Policies.  Strategies are the basis for implementation of the Plan by identifying and recommending specific courses of action.

 

How Should the Plan Be Used? 

The Comprehensive Plan is a guide to action.  It is not, itself, an implementation  tool.  By ensuring that individual actions are consistent with the goals, objectives and policies of the Comprehensive Plan, the City can effectively achieve the vision.  For example, the Planning Commission and the Board of Alderman will use the Plan's policies and maps to decide whether to approve a proposed re-zoning of land within its City limits.  Zoning, subdivision, building and construction codes and standards should regulate development in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan.  Upon adopting of this Plan, the City should review existing development regulations and ordinances to determine compliance with the adopted Plan.  Once The Comprehensive Plan defines policies and recommends measures governing the application, modification and interpretation of these development regulations. 

 


The Plan also should guide the preparation of detailed facility master plans and capital improvement programs for the City's water, wastewater, flood control, parks, and transportation systems.  The Plan should be a dynamic document, subject to periodic amendment when conditions within the City change significantly.  Periodic updates of the Plan will be needed to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of City businesses and residents.

 

Coordination with Other Jurisdictions

Many problems faced by local governments are regional in nature.  Issues such as population growth, environmental preservation, growth patterns, and the adequacy of public facilities and services often transcend local, neighborhood or city boundaries.  This Plan strongly supports partnerships between Ocean Springs, Jackson County and communities adjacent to the planning area.  These partnerships should focus on coordinated growth management and service provision strategies.  Through effective coordination, residents and business owners will enjoy the benefits of more cost-effective service provision and a more stable, sustainable region.  Failure to coordinate will result in excessive consumption of valuable open space land, as well as the inefficient use of existing public investments in infrastructure.

 

In other communities, lack of intergovernmental coordination has resulted in the loss of population and economic development.  Such losses undermine the stability of neighborhoods and businesses within the City, and reduce public facility and service efficiencies, thereby making it more costly for both City residents and County residents.  This makes the City less attractive for major economic development that would benefit the entire planning area and the region, and generates a need for more expansive roads and highways to transport workers longer distances to their jobs.  These adverse consequences can be avoided by: coordinated (joint) comprehensive planning; the adoption and implementation of key growth management goals, objectives and policies; and sustained monitoring of development over the planning period.

 

Who Implements the Plan? 

The policies and strategies of the Plan must be implemented in a timely manner in order to ensure that the vision of the Comprehensive Plan becomes a reality.  Who should be charged with the implementation of the goals, policies and strategies?  It should be a joint effort of the Board of Alderman, the Planning Commission and City staff, the private sector and other service providers.  Section X identifies and prioritizes strategies to ensure that the vision becomes a reality.  The schedule establishes priorities for public action and also guides private decisions that support Plan priorities.


II.  Context for Planning

 

The City of Ocean Spring’s 1965 Comprehensive Plan stated, “Those responsible for planning in Ocean Springs have two choices.  They can allow the City to develop as it has in the past with only limited regard to land planning, street alignment, compatible land uses, zoning controls, or codes and ordinances.  This lax attitude of no controls will continue to curse the land, increase taxes, reduce revenue, and encourage traffic congestion.  The other choice, and the most desirable, is to intelligently evaluate the economic background and potential of Ocean Springs, to adhere to the land use plan, enforce the zoning ordinance and building code, review all subdivision developments in the light of the subdivision regulations, and intelligently recommend placement of schools, playgrounds, parks, major roads, and other community facilities.”

 

In light of the alternatives presented to the City leaders thirty-five years ago, what choices were made?  Has  the City been allowed to develop as it has in the past without any regard to land planning or have intelligent evaluations been made to require proper growth and development?  Visual inspections of the City coupled with citizen input indicate that progress has been made; however, choices also have been made that have eroded the character of what people perceive Ocean Springs to be.  The City of Ocean Springs, Mississippi Comprehensive Plan’s purpose is to evaluate previous planning efforts and documents, identify the shortfalls and problems, assess the City’s current environment, and recommend alternatives for future development based heavily on citizen comments.  

 

 

MISSION STATEMENT

To identify the unique characteristics and resources of Ocean Springs, and provide for their preservation and enhancement, with balance between quality of life and economic growth.

 


The plan sets forth a vision to emphasize, develop, and strive to be widely recognized as an aesthetically pleasing small town community, providing a superior quality of life, and family environment.  The plan’s intent is to make the preceding vision a reality by focusing on creating a place that feels, not just looks, like a community and functions like a community; offering charitable goals; addressing health, educational, social and cultural needs; and providing recreational amenities.  This involves the development of places designed, constructed and maintained to stimulate and please the senses, to encourage community use, and to promote civic and personal pride.  If the City leaders adopt policies meeting the aforementioned criteria, then Ocean Springs will not only continue to be a great place to live as its residents strongly believe it is, but also, by cultivating a sense of well-being among its residents, it will encourage value-added development.

 

Historical Development

Ocean Springs, purported to be the second oldest city in the country, was founded by the French in 1699 with the establishment of Fort Maurepas.  Located on a peninsula, the City is bordered by Biloxi Bay, Davis and Old Fort Bayou.  The area became settled as a colonial fishing village and experienced only limited growth until steamer service began between Mobile and New Orleans in 1820-30s.  In the 1800s, Ocean Springs provided a safe haven to those escaping yellow fever by steamboat from New Orleans and began to grow as a resort community with the discovery of mineral springs near the Old Fort Bayou in the 1850s.  This heralded the construction of numerous hotels and boarding houses, as well as elaborate resort homes.   Also, during this time, live oaks were planted along the streets of the town.  During the 1870s the railroad was built and the central business district transitioned from the waterfront to the railroad – as the primary transportation mode changed, so did the location of the community’s focal point for commercial activity.

 

The street scape of old Ocean Springs has not changed much in the last sixty to seventy years.  Most of the commercial space available in the downtown area is rented by retail businesses, especially along Washington Avenue, the main street of old Ocean Springs.  At the turn of the century, as in many towns nationally and internationally, there was a significant mix of land uses which allowed people to walk to nearby businesses and even live above some of the shops in the downtown area.  During the Depression of the 1930s, many property owners tore down the older buildings to avoid paying the taxes on them.  Most of the buildings not torn down were destroyed by fire.  During the post-World War I era the downtown began growing to the east of Washington Avenue.  As Highway 90 was completed, businesses began relocating along the commercial strip.

 

It has been noted residents of the  community are frequently characterized by their love of the arts.  Ocean Spring’s most famous citizen, Walter Anderson, was known for his colorful paintings and murals of the creatures and plant life of the nearby Mississippi Sound and Gulf of Mexico.  Ocean Springs is also recognized for houses designed by famous architects.  It is said that the architect Louis Sullivan frequently visited the town and that Frank Lloyd Wright may have designed several cottages there, while he was working for Sullivan.


The Role of Planning

There have been three distinct planning efforts undertaken by the City.  The City of Ocean Springs began its first formalized planning process in the early 1960s that led to the report Evaluation of the Economy - Long Range Land Use Plan for Ocean Springs, Mississippi (1965).  Subsequent publications that were part of that Plan included the Major Thoroughfare Plan (1966), Community Facilities Plan (1966) and Public Improvements Program, Capital Improvements Budget, Planning Continuation Program (1966).

 

The Evaluation of the Economy - Long Range Land Use Plan may be characterized as being insightful in that many of the problems facing the City today were clearly identified and predicted.  Several examples are:

 

·          “Strip commercial development is beginning to show up . . . and [unless] this strip commercial is controlled through codes and ordinances, the strip development and scattered land use will prove to be deleterious to the land in the fringe area and to the traffic circulation in the fringe area and to the control and use of commercial districts in Ocean Springs.”

 

·          “As mentioned earlier in this report, there is an abundance of vacant land within the City and within the fringe area for the suggested population increase during the planning period; however, extreme caution should be exercised in the utilization of this vacant land because this is the last opportunity for the City to obtain organized land development, traffic circulation, and the placement of recreational areas in the proper places.”

 

·          “Ocean Springs is one of the many ‘bedroom’ or ‘satellite’ communities on the Gulf Coast.  This does not mean that it is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ city ... but it is evident that Ocean Springs is destined to be a residential community since the urban areas of Pascagoula, Biloxi, and Gulfport have much more to offer industry.  Ocean Springs is blessed with a long history.  The rich history of the community, the topography, and the tranquility of the beautiful live oaks and the serenity of the landscaped views from Ocean Springs put it in an enviable position to attract ‘bedroom’ residential development.  It is not the intention of this land use plan or zoning ordinance or the major thoroughfare plan to change the history or the character of the City, however, it is believed that the people of Ocean Springs should not rest on their laurels and boast of their heritage or turn away from the facts of population growth and development or the dilapidated houses or deteriorating neighborhoods.”

 

In the early 1970s, to justify expanding the City limits beyond the planning area established in the 1965 Plan, the City undertook efforts to develop its second comprehensive plan.  The adopted Comprehensive Plan (1971) consists of the following reports:


·          Community Goals, Objectives, and Standards;

·          Economic and Population Study;

·          Inventory and Analysis;

·          Initial Housing Element;

·          Public Improvements Program; and

·          Comprehensive Development Plan.

 

The Plan was written on the basis of studies that analyzed again and re-evaluated the Ocean Springs economy, history and growth pattern through the year 1970.  Goals, objectives, and standards were set forth in the Plan for City growth and development to 1990.  As will be seen in this update, several of the goals identified in the 1971 Plan have been accomplished.  The Plan remains the only official land use strategy and set of standards the City has adopted to date. 

 

The third, and current, planning effort began in August 1995.  The intention was to begin data collection and issue identification to serve Ocean Springs for a twenty-year period, from 2000 to 2020.  The data provided was monitored incrementally and reviewed in detail by the Ocean Springs Growth and Development Committee, created under the authority of the Board of Aldermen, to operate as an ad hoc committee reporting to the Ocean Springs Planning Commission.

 

Public Participation

In developing a plan, the most important item is assuring that the community has ownership in the product.  The City of Ocean Springs has taken steps to assure that the public provided substantial input into the planning process.  First, as referenced above, the City established the Ocean  Springs Growth and Development Committee which was comprised of seventeen citizens initially.  Minutes of the meetings are available and will be kept for review in the Community Development and Planning Department.  Second, the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce Community Development Committee has been an important source for obtaining feedback regarding the plan and growth policies, such as “smart growth” and “green urbanism.”  Third, a randomly selected citizens were provided with disposable cameras to photograph Ocean Springs.   The intent of distributing the cameras was to identify what people of differing backgrounds deem to be important about Ocean Springs and to establish what patterns regarding the City’s important qualities can be established across socioeconomic levels.  Ideally, the findings indicate shared visual preferences and serve as a means to refine the goals and objectives by assuring that the goals and objectives of the plan more accurately reflect Ocean Springs as a whole, not just the views of a few.  Finally, the City’s Community Development and Planning Department coordinated with the local media to create awareness of the planning effort and to solicit comments from citizens.

 

Planning Areas and Neighborhoods


The Planning Area extends beyond existing City boundaries, as of the date of Plan adoption, to reflect a comprehensive approach to growth management – community issues typically don’t start and end at precise boundaries, but reflect development practices and pressures within a general geographic area.  Preparing for growth means that development proposals should be encouraged in appropriate areas, based on land use intensity and available infrastructure, and discouraged in inappropriate areas.  The determination of infrastructure availability often is dependent upon the potential of undeveloped land to permit expansion, based on a fiscal impact analysis to ascertain the economic feasibility of such an expansion.  The Planning Area is shown in the exhibit marked  Ocean Springs Planning Area Map.

 


                                                                       INSERT

                                                 Ocean Springs Planning Area Map

                                                                      EXHIBIT


III.  Community Vision

 

The community identified a series of multi-faceted visions which express the overall wishes and desires of residents for the future of Ocean Springs.  Vision statements are very general in nature, broadly defining the kind of community Ocean Springs should become.  Vision statements serve as the foundation for formulating the Plan’s goals, objectives and policies, as well as Plan implementation strategies.

 

 

 

VISION STATEMENT

Ocean Springs will become and be widely recognized as an aesthetically pleasing small town community, providing a superior quality of life and family environment.

 

 

Planning Themes

The following themes emerged from the public participation process.  The themes provide key policy direction for developing the goals and objectives of the Plan and are reflected throughout the Plan:

 

·          Pursue ways to restore the urban ecology;

 

·          Land use should be suitable for and compatible with environmental characteristics;

 

·          Development in the fringe areas should integrate a mix of land uses, preserve open space, be fiscally responsible, and provide transportation options;

 

·          New development and redevelopment should reflect the character of traditional Ocean Springs;

 

·          A higher level of property maintenance should be encouraged;

 

·          Regulatory requirements and processes should be fair, predictable, and protect the interest of the community as a whole; and

 

·          Intergovernmental cooperation will be essential for meeting the planning goals.


 

Plan Issues

The Growth and Development Committee established a vision for the City’s future, and with the help of staff and planning consultants, developed policies based on the following issues, which are further discussed within this Plan.  Recognition and discussion of the following issues formed the basis for the Committee’s development of community vision priorities:

 

·          Develop functional planning classifications;

 

·          Adopt design standards to assure land use compatibility;

 

·          Adopt level of service standards for all public facilities and services;

 

·          Identify alternative development scenarios;

 

·          Protect environmental resources;

 

·          Preserve cultural amenities;

 

·          Mitigate surface water flow problems due to increased impervious surfaces;

 

·          Identify multi-modal transportation alternatives;

 

·          Implement streamlined administrative procedures;

 

·          Gather and provide adequate information for decision-makers;

 

·          Conduct proactive demand forecasts and threshold analyses;

 

·          Identify appropriate locations for new development;

 

·          Identify and preserve the community’s historical assets;

 

·          Identify alternative architectural and landscaping design standards;

 

·          Identify neighborhood improvement strategies;

 

·          Encourage new and existing business retention and development;

 

·          Improve community appearance;

 

·          Identify alternative strategies to ensure that growth occurs in a timed, orderly manner;


 

·          Ensure that adequate public facilities exist for new development;

 

·          Limit development’s impact on the environment; and

 

·          Identify strategies to protect people and property from natural and environmental hazards.

 


IV.  Environmental Assessment

 

Topography

Ocean Springs is located on a peninsula in southwest Jackson County, Mississippi.  Jackson County is part of the East Gulf Coastal Plain region, which lies to the east of the Mississippi Delta.  The area is mostly low hills, covered with pine forests. Topographic relief in the planning area is moderate, with gentle slopes (less than 5 percent) covering almost all of the planning area. Only some localized areas have moderate slopes (from 5 to 12 percent).

 

Geology

The planning area is characterized by sandy and loamy soils.  There are three major geologic formations in the area.  The Biloxi Formation is a transgressive unit deposited in marine and brackish water both near shore and offshore.  It consists of clay, fine sand, and sandy clay with abundant fossils and ranges in thickness from 15 to 45 feet in Harrison County to as much as 120 feet thick in Jackson County.  The second is the Prairie Formation, composed primarily of sands and muddy sands with fossil tree trunks, leaves, and occasionally pine cones.  The Prairie Formation ranges from 15 to 40 feet thick.  It forms the wide, generally flat coastal plain immediately north of the coastal marshes and beaches on the Mississippi coast.  The City of Ocean Springs is dominantly formed by the Prairie Formation.  The third formation—the Gulfport Formation is the most prominent and probably the most exploited geologic formation along the coast.  All of the sand on the mainland beaches of Mississippi comes indirectly from the Gulfport Formation.  Gradual warming and rising sea level also eroded and leveled the post-glacial landscape as the river valleys were filled and became swamps and marshes.  This sub-surface evidence can be seen along the coast of the City of Ocean Springs.

 

Hydrology

The Mississippi Sound is the eventual recipient of the effluent via stream, rivers, bayous, discharges and runoff from more than 38,000 square miles of land of diversified usage.  The Sound and adjacent bays serve as mixing basins for marine and fresh or brackish waters.  The City of Ocean Springs is bordered by Fort Bayou, one of the large basins that drain into the Sound.

 

There are a variety of wetlands in the planning area.  Examples of coastal wetlands are seagrass beds, mud flats, sandy beaches, slat marshes, freshwater marshes, wet savannahs, bogs, and others.  About one-third of the state’s 120 ecological communities are found in the Coastal Zone. Coastal wetlands and associated habitats, ranging from seagrass meadows and oyster reefs to salt marshes and coastal pine savannahs, form a belt comprising about 800 square miles, which includes areas within the planning area.

 


These coastal wetlands are part of what has been termed the “Fertile Crescent” because of its high biological productivity.  Seafood harvests from the U.S. Gulf Coast represent 40 percent of the nation’s totals and form the basis of a multimillion dollar industry in Mississippi.  Most commercially important Gulf seafood species, including shrimp, oysters, blue crabs, flounders, redfish, just to name a few, spend some or all of their life in the rich waters in and adjacent to coastal wetlands.  Shallow coastal waters along the gulf coast also serve as crucial nursery areas for many commercially important fish and shellfish species.  It is in the food-rich waters adjacent to the marshes where shrimp larvae and young fish feed and grow before moving offshore.

 

Water Quality

Essential to any sustained economic development on the Mississippi coast is an abundant and economical source of fresh water for industrial and consumer use.  The coastal area is fortunate to have such an abundant supply derived from sources in the subsurface Miocene and Pliocene formations.  Total fresh ground water withdrawals in 1990 amounted to 30,930,000 gallons for Jackson County.  Of the two formations, the Pliocene aquifers tend to have a higher percentage of dissolved solids with the highest concentrations in Jackson County (1,000 mg/liter).  Surface water use is concentrated in Jackson County, where industrial and commercial firms use almost 58 million gallons of surface water daily (Johnson, 1994).

 

Climate

The Mississippi Gulf Coast has a subtropical, maritime climate.  There are eight distinct climatic patterns that have been identified that affect the area.  The subtropical, anticyclonic (clockwise circulation) Bermuda High has the greatest influence on the climate of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Both Bermuda High and Continental Pressure Systems greatly influence wind patterns: a substantial portion of the winter winds (December-February) come from between  north and northeast; the predominant winds of spring (March-May) come from between south-southwest and south-southeast; the onset of summer (June-August) has a pattern similar to that of spring; Fall is always announced by an onset of a sharp and fairly consistent strong northeasterly winds.

 

The combination of high humidity and high temperature is characteristic of summer.  Winters are generally mild with an average of only 11 days per year when temperatures drop below 32_F. There are no records of sub-zero temperatures ever having occurred.  From November through March, dense sea fog which forms offshore over the relatively cold water surface is carried across the coast by onshore winds.  Tropical storms and hurricanes are typical of the Mississippi Gulf Coast area.  The principal season for hurricanes is from June through November; however, most hurricanes occur during August and September, which can cause substantial damage within the planning area.

 

 

 

 

 


V.  Community Growth

 

Population

In 1998 the City’s population was estimated to be approximately 16,519.  The City experienced tremendous growth from 1970 to 1980, when its population grew from 9,580 to 14,504 people due primarily to annexation.  From 1980 to 1990 the City grew in population by 5 percent, although the 1990 census population figure was believed to be lower than what the actual population was.  The Mayor in office at the time the 1990 census figures were published filed a formal protest with the Census Bureau and an adjustment was made.  However, the Census Bureau was limited in the amount of adjustment that could be made in response to the protest.

 

As shown in the following exhibit, from 1990 to 2000, the City’s population increased 18%, which is slightly above the Jackson County growth rate but comparable to the growth rate on the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Much of the population growth has occurred as a result of the advent of the gaming industry in 1992 in neighboring Harrison County. 

 

                                       City of Ocean Springs Population Comparisons

 

Population

 

Ocean Springs

 

Biloxi

 

Pascagoula

 

Gautier

 

D’Iberville

 

Jackson County

 

MS Gulf Coast

 

1980

 

14,504

 

       

 

 

1990

 

14,658

 

46,319

 

25,899

 

10,088

 

6,566

 

115,243

 

312,238

 

Change, 1980-1990

 

1%

 

       

 

 

2000

 

17,225

 

50,644

 

26,200

 

11,681

 

7,608

 

131,420

 

363,988

 

Change,  1990-2000

 

18%

 

9%

 

1%

 

16%

 

16%

 

14%

 

17%

Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000.

 

 

As of 2000, approximately 6.64 percent (an estimated 660 acres) of the City’s total area remained available for new residential and non-residential uses to accommodate future population growth.  This estimate does consider that a percentage of land will have environmental constraints and will be dedicated to the City for public use and access.  At present development densities, the City has approximately seventeen (17) years before it is built out; this projection is based on a constant rate of development, net in-migration, net out-migration, birth and death rate, including indications that growth in the housing market is slowing.  Population projections are provided in the following exhibit.

 


                                                            Population Projections                       

 

Year

 

Population

 

2000

 

17,225

 

2005

 

18,927

 

2010

 

20,787

 

2015

 

22,587

 

2020

 

24,327

 

Housing

The average valuation in 1998 for a new home in Ocean Springs was $124,695.  This is well above the Mississippi Gulf Coast average of $94,962.  Of the 11 incorporated Mississippi Gulf Coast cities, the City of Ocean Springs has the sixth highest value for a new home.  While the preceding may seem to indicate that housing in Ocean Springs is more affordable than the other Mississippi Gulf Coast cities, it is more indicative of the lack of affordable housing coast-wide. The United States Department of Housing and Development Fiscal Year 2000 median family income for the Biloxi-Gulfport-Pascagoula metropolitan statistical area, of which the City of Ocean Springs is part, is $40,500.  Consequently, housing costs should  be in the range of $60,000 to $70,000 at a maximum to assure affordability. 

 

Ocean Springs has a significantly large portion of its housing stock in single family detached units (85.4%); this figure includes both site-built and manufactured units.  In general, the houses are situated on moderately sized lots (12,000 square feet or greater) which has led to a relatively low density, by urban standards, development pattern.  Up-to-date data was not available at the time of writing as to the percentage of owner-occupied versus renter-occupied houses.

 

Higher density, attached residential units account for approximately 12.5% of the remaining housing stock.  Almost all of these units are assumed to be renter-occupied.  For two- to four- family units,  the density is low, averaging five units per acre.  The highest percentage of multi-family units (five or greater residences) primarily range from 15 to 24.99 units per acre.  The average number of units per complex is 53 units.

 

The City has adopted design guidelines for residential housing units in its eight  historic districts.  The Ocean Springs Historic Districts Design Guidelines provide a narrative of the significance of each of the districts in addition to architectural standards that should be applied to new construction, alterations, and additions.  The purpose of the guidelines is to assure that new housing units are designed to be compatible with the historic architectural styles found in the districts and to protect the historic integrity of the neighborhoods.

 


The City does have pockets of substandard housing as informally assessed by the City’s Building Inspection staff.  The majority of the substandard houses are located in redevelopment and transitional neighborhoods.  Substandard housing is one of the criteria for determining the functionality of the different geographic areas of the City for planning purposes.  As noted in the Initial Housing Element: A Part of the Comprehensive Plan (1971), while substandard housing was occupied by both whites and nonwhites alike, the problem was nearly twice as frequently experienced by nonwhites than by whites. 

 

The proportion of substandard housing occupied by “nonwhites” (using the classification terminology of the 1971 plan) has continued to rise drastically in relation to the number of substandard housing units occupied by whites.  The disproportionate share is due in part to a population increase in the white population of 216% between 1960 and 1990 – many of whom moved into newer constructed houses – and only an 86.5% increase in the nonwhite population.  Also to be noted is that nonwhites make up less than 10% of the City’s estimated population in 2000.  However, the disproportionate share can also be attributed to the City’s lack of a formal housing and redevelopment program coupled with the lack of private sector investment in the “nonwhite” areas of the City.

 

Ocean Springs housing trends follow many of the trends that have occurred nationally.  The fast pace of residential construction has fueled concerns about “sprawl.”  In the midst of prosperity, the home ownership gap between whites and minorities has not narrowed.  Very low income households still lack adequate, affordable housing at a time when losses of subsidized units are rising.  National figures indicate that record numbers of very low income households are devoting more than half their incomes for housing.  Renting remains the only option for many who are either unable to qualify for a mortgage loan or to cover the costs associated with buying a home.  For many others, though, renting is an attractive lifestyle as well as a prudent financial choice.  It is an especially appealing option for people who expect to move again within a few years, because they can avoid the steep transaction costs associated with buying and selling a home.  It also may be the first independent step for younger persons in making a long term commitment to a community; as trends have shown, initially they may rent, but as they become “settled,” they seek to purchase property in the community where they have been living.

 


Although household growth may slow slightly over the coming decade, home building is expected to rival the 1990s in terms of new construction and value of construction.  As the aging “baby boomers” boost the number of forty-five to sixty-five year olds, the demand for amenity- rich homes and second homes will continue to rise.  At the same time, the “echo boomers” (the children of the baby boomers) will begin to supplant the smaller “baby-bust” generation in the young adult age groups, giving the markets for rental units a moderate rise.  Ocean Springs should anticipate shifts in housing demand towards multi-family units as they are growing fastest among both young and middle-aged households.  At the national level, with the children of baby boomers beginning to live independently, the number of renter households under age 25 has been increasing significantly over the past five years.  Home ownership is on the rise in the preceding age group, but the share that rents housing still exceeds eighty percent (80%).  The baby boomers also are contributing to the shift in demand.  As the boomers age during the planning period, the share of renters aged forty-five to sixty-five is expected to rise. 

 

Economic Growth

The City of Ocean Springs has more retail and service businesses than any other type of establishment, with this sec­tor playing  a dominant role in the City’s local economy.  Nearly 50% of land used for commercial purposes is for retail trade.  A growing portion of the retail trade is developing in response to the promotion of the City as cultural tourist destination.   The City is home to the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, the developing Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center for Arts and Education, and Shearwater Pottery as well as other small galleries, such as Local Color Gallery, OSAA Co-op Gallery, and Peggy Pelham Gallery. 

 

Recent studies have shown that arts-related institutions draw more visitors than professional sports events.  Nationally, the centers of American cities are showing impressive results ensuing from a recent consideration of cities as the centers of American culture; the same is true for Ocean Springs.  It is now recognized nationally that there are significant revenues generated from museums and galleries contributing to local employment, business prosperity and tax revenues.  A city’s overall image is directly related to its arts and cultural institutions, which can play a major role attracting and retaining skilled professionals in the area.  Moreover, there is renewed awareness that collaborations among arts institutions and business interests can be mutually beneficial.  In theory a cultural district should offer diverse attractions and be incorporated into the sensibly developed patterns of the city.

 

To engender its own individuality, an “arts district” should have at least four to five “attractors” within a three- to -four- block radius of one another, and the walkways between them should be inviting.  Success also depends on the intermixed private enterprises, including cafes, restaurants, and bars; frame and print stores, hotels, nightclubs, and various specialty retail shops that are open at night.  To compliment the institutions and their supporting businesses, public art and murals, artist-in-residence programs, and festivals should be encouraged.  Ocean Springs has many of the preceding in place or in development.

 

The Health Care industry also contributes significantly to the City’s economy.  Roughly 19% of the City’s land in commercial use is for health related professions.  Other services make up 28.9% of the commercial land.  Only 5% of the City’s non-residential land is dedicated to manufacturing and related type uses.  The City needs to maintain and encourage investment in the commercial sector of its economy, while at the same time diversifying into other sectors such as manufacturing, technology, and research and development.

 


Ocean Springs is home to two national corporations that also are important employers in the City.  The first is Blossman Gas, Inc. established in 1951.  Blossman Gas sells propane gas and accessories throughout the southeastern states from Mississippi to Virginia.  The company has over 70 branches and is the 13th largest propane dealer in the country.  The second is Gulf National Companies.  Gulf National and its affiliates represent the largest funeral insurance company in Mississippi.  The company provides funeral and life insurance to about 180,000 policy holders in Mississippi, and represents 200 funeral homes throughout the state.  Its main office is in Jackson and the executive offices are in a restored historic building in downtown Ocean Springs.

 

An estimated 80% of Ocean Springs’ population commutes to places of employment outside of the City.  Harrison County provides a significant source of employment through the gaming industry.  The cities of Pascagoula and Moss Point in Jackson County have several major industrial facilities, including Ingall’s Ship Building, Chevron, and  International Paper, that employ many Ocean Springs’ residents.  The high commuter rate has caused Ocean Springs to be recognized as a “bedroom” community.  

 

Income

The City of Ocean Springs is recognized as having the highest per capita income in the State of Mississippi.  The estimated average per capita income in 2000 for a resident of Ocean Springs is $19,805.  That income level does not necessarily reflect the wages paid within the City of Ocean Springs.  With the exception of some major manufacturers and the United States government, most jobs on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are retail or service oriented.  Generally, jobs in the retail and services sectors tend to be lower paying than jobs in the manufacturing or technology  industries that often demand higher skills from their workforce.  Per capita incomes on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are expected to rise slightly faster than the national average.

 

Median household income for residents of the City is estimated to be $42,575, compared to a metro area average of $40,500.  Based on the CACI ACORN Profile, 41.8% of households in Ocean Springs are considered “affluent.”  The same study shows that 36.9% are considered “upscale households.”  Characteristics of the “affluent” and “upscale” households are: upper-income “empty nesters,” prosperous baby boomers, urban professional couples, baby boomers with children, and older settled married couples.

 


VI.  Land Use

 

The most appropriate use, density and livability of the primary corridors into and through the City have historically posed challenges for the community.  The initial 1965 Plan recommended a more “livable” environment in the primary corridors and that development patterns should include residential and less intensive commercial uses.  The future land use element of the 1971 Plan, which established the basis for the City’s existing zoning districts, created “strip” commercial areas along the thoroughfares. However, when reviewing the land use element and the future land use map for this Plan, consideration should be given to the following:

 

·          The future land uses are not zoning designations -- they are intended to guide local decisions on zoning, subdivision and other land use matters.

 

·          Future land uses reflect a future condition -- uses designated on the map may be appropriate in 10 to 20 years, but currently may not be appropriate due to reasons of compatibility, availability of adequate public facilities, or proximity to services.

 

·          The Future Land Use Map is dynamic -- as justified by changing conditions in the community, the future land use map should change.  While map amendments should not be made frequently, periodic adjustments to better achieve community goals will help the community achieve its planning goals.

 

·          The map and text of the Land Use Element are to be used together -- the text and tables in this element guide interpretation of the Future Land Use Map.

 

Planning Areas

Planning Areas are neighborhoods within the City with unique or distinct characteristics and planning needs.  Planning Areas, the boundaries of which may be amended from time to time, are shown in the exhibit titled Planning Areas Map briefly described, below:

 

Gateway Corridor District.  Gateway Corridors are the key entryways into and through the City, and consists of properties adjoining and visible from the major arterial corridors.  Pragmatically, corridors are extremely important to identifying community image.  The Gateway Corridor is urban in function and has similar land uses to those in the Downtown District.  The difference is that the Gateway Corridor is an urban area located and designed for access via the automobile.  In contrast to the vegetation characteristic of older commercial districts, such as the downtown, roads and parking lots dominate the Gateway Corridor.

 

Within the planning area, the effect of accommodating the automobile has determined the character of the environment.  Characteristically, the area, with few exceptions, has witnessed


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                                                              Planning Areas Map

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increasing amounts of land being consumed for parking, driveways, and roads than for buildings and site design (landscaping, open space, etc), which has decreased the significance and function of the architecture and has encouraged the elimination of natural features.  Traditional design and “image elements” that defined Ocean Springs, such as well-defined enclosures, pedestrian access and human-scale design, have been minimized.  Widely-spaced one-story buildings have made the area indistinct and lacking any sense of place.  The area that parking consumes also has limited the degree of enclosure; parking lots and driveways that create barriers to pedestrian movement between buildings define enclosure.  Each use tries to encourage customers to park at its front door, promoting driving from use to use.

 

The primary land uses in the Gateway Corridor are retail, office and services (medical, professional, etc).  Development intensity is less than that found in the downtown district.  The uses require space for high levels of interaction where access is automobile dependent.  As a result, buildings frequently are constructed some distance from the public rights-of-way, while parking lots and driveways occupy much of the setback area.

 

Fast food restaurants, convenience stores, and shopping centers dominate the landscape of the district.  A tension exists between density and attempts to introduce vegetation to produce a more traditional setting, which has resulted in further spacing of buildings and increased dependence on the automobile.  The principal residential use in the area is apartments.  The density is such that personal privacy only can be attained indoors or in walled yards.  Planning issues include:

 

·          Additional infrastructure investment, primarily for water and sewer improvements/extensions, stormwater management;

 

·          Corridor and gateway design standards and traffic calming;

 

·          Adequate transportation levels of service and multimodal options;

 

·          Loss of community character; and

 

·          Preservation of natural resources and “greening” of the district.

 


Downtown District.  The Downtown District is the urban core of Ocean Springs.  It is the traditional and historic center for government, commerce and culture, and remains a vital, vibrant link between Ocean Springs “olde” and new.  The area commonly is described as the “heart” of Ocean Springs and for many embodies the character of what people perceive Ocean Springs to be. The sense of space in the downtown is defined clearly by physical architectural elements and the canopy of live oaks.  Historically, the area has been a place where commerce and cultural opportunities have been concentrated.  The environment was and is designed to bring people into close contact and maximize personal interaction.  One result of the more intense interaction is congestion.  Although congestion usually is considered undesirable, the downtown retail activities are dependent on intense pedestrian activity.  Commercial and residential buildings are set close to the public rights-of-way, which enhances pedestrian access and contributes to the enclosed spatial quality.

 

Downtown Ocean Springs is a unique place for its residents and visitors alike.  It is crucial that Ocean Springs maintain this area as a vital business district while remaining resident-friendly by accommodating and promoting pedestrian activity.  The central business district should provide better connections to anchoring institutions in the community, such as the old Depot, City Hall, and the Walter Anderson Museum.  Several options exist to develop a  pedestrian path within the blocks combined with the sidewalk of Washington Avenue forming  a loop that promotes alternative routes through the downtown.  Along alternate routes particular attention should be focused on improving pedestrian orientation.  This requires developing an inventory of existing parking as well as identifying new parking areas not overpowering to the pedestrian.

 

Parking is perceived to be a problem by some of the merchants in the central business district and must be resolved by balancing the desire for pedestrian orientation with the use of the automobile.  More appropriately, the perception of a lack of adequate parking may be better described as a sensed lack of convenient parking (i.e., directly in front of a business).  The Growth and Development Committee the City formed identified three critical areas related to parking in the central business district: (1) the square footage requirement for individual bays; (2) limiting parking to one side of the street on narrow streets; and, (3) building off-site parking facilities.  The parking issue should be studied further and an appropriate course of action decided both by the public sector and the private sector, so not to hinder business retention and attraction to the central business district. 

 

Much of the Downtown District was developed prior to the advent of the automobile.  With the reliance on the automobile that has evolved significantly since World War II, the Downtown District faces urban design constraints.  Pedestrians, generally, do not prefer to walk distances greater than six hundred (600) feet.  With a large majority of people arriving to the downtown area via automobile, parking issues must be addressed so walking distances are minimized. 

 

Within walking distance of the commercial core is a mix of residential uses.  The residential uses have been important for providing additional activity within the downtown.  The residents also benefit from the proximity to the concentration of social, cultural, and recreational activities in and adjacent to the planning area.  While the residences are located in a more urban setting, personal privacy is maintained by the relatively low density (by urban standards) of single-family residential development and fenced yards.  In addition, the near-by Little Children’s Park, Freedom Field and the beach provide refuge from the high level of public interaction and congestion of the urban setting.  Planning issues include:

 

·          Central business district stability and investment;

 


·          Encouraging and increasing pedestrian access;

 

·          Preservation and revitalization of residential areas;

 

·          In-fill development; and

 

·          Cultural development.

 

Historic Ocean Springs.  Historic Ocean Springs contains the City’s historic roots, and is characterized by development patterns communities across the country try to emulate, now referred to as “new urbanist” or neo-traditional development practices.  The Historic District planning area exemplifies the qualities that define the City of Ocean Springs.  Five (5) historic districts are within the boundaries of this area: the Old Ocean Springs, Indian Springs, Marble Springs, Lovers’ Lane, and Shearwater Districts.  The planning area embodies many of the characteristics found in the Downtown District, such as:

 

·          Green spaces and vegetation, including live oak tree lined streets;

 

·          Accommodations for pedestrian and other non-vehicular traffic;

 

·          A high degree of architectural cohesiveness, yet with distinct variations between historic districts; and

 

·          Appropriate scale of buildings relative to their setback.

 

One of the main differences between the downtown district and the historic districts, however, is their respective land uses – the historic districts are residential, whereas the downtown district primarily is commercial with residential uses at the periphery that transition to adjacent historic districts.  Planning issues include:

 

·          Preservation of community character;

 

·          Maintaining high level of public safety to encourage further investment;

 

·          Protection and enhancement of natural landscape; and

 

·          Encouraging compatible in-fill development.

 


East Beach District.  The East Beach District is comprised of two distinct character areas.  The first is an estate-type area in which the development pattern predominantly is low density residential.  They mainly are waterfront properties, and includes the Sullivan-Charnley Historic District.  The second area is comprised of more suburban style development located mainly in the interior of the district.  Both areas are similar in that there is significant landscaping that provides for effective contrast and balance to the buildings.

 

Along the waterfront, lots have been platted and buildings have been set back to facilitate more privacy, less crowding, and a clear sense of spaciousness.  The landscape is a more prevalent physical attribute of the area than the buildings.  An “open” feeling has been created in the area through low-density development on larger, more heavily landscaped properties.  Architectural and “man-made” elements are apparent from the public rights-of-way, but are secondary to the landscaping.

 

The development in the interior of the district is more intensive, single-family residential in character and use.  Current open space is simply areas not yet developed or unable to be developed due to environmental constraints; in essence, the natural open spaces or views are borrowed from adjoining land.  Few of the developments have significant internal open space.  Planning issues include:

 

·          The loss of the historic estate character as the area has transitioned to a more suburban character type;

 

·          Preservation of existing residential character;

 

·          Preservation of open space and scenic views and protection of natural resources; and

 

·          Connecting the district, with adequate pedestrian ways, bikeways, or other alternatives to the automobile, to schools, recreation areas, cultural centers, and retail shopping in other planning areas.

 

Fort Bayou District.  The Fort Bayou planning area is comprised of typical suburban residential development characteristic of the late 1960s to the present.  The area represents typical post-World War II “suburban” development patterns, limited by local hydrological conditions.  However, the City has encouraged neighborhood design that preserves existing natural environmental characteristics and retains open space to protect neighborhood character.

 

Unlike the historic developments in Ocean Springs, human interaction in the Fort Bayou District generally is lowered from the more intense urban level to a more casual social level.  Residents engage in more unstructured “family-oriented” activities rather than the more formal event- or place-oriented activities, such as the various social and cultural activities that occur throughout the year in the downtown and historic districts.  There is more of a sense of individual privacy than what may be found in the Downtown District and, to a degree, in the Historic District.  The sensed privacy results from more pronounced setbacks between buildings and along public rights-of-way.

 


The changes in space, lifestyle, and interaction levels in the district directly have affected the types of land use appropriate for the area.  Commercial developments, while located near-by in the Gateway Corridor, that serve community needs typically cannot be integrated as easily into developments due to the levels of interaction necessary to maintain privacy, the “suburban” lifestyle, and lack of congestion the residents seek.  Large nonresidential uses have a scale and appearance incongruous in a suburban environment.  In addition, the transportation network is not laid out to support a variety of nonresidential uses in the district.  It is possible to accommodate nonresidential uses in the district; however, in order to do so, they must be either spread out with lower intensity on each site or clustered to surround or be surrounded by open space.  Planning issues include:

 

·          Loss of open space and lack of natural resource protection;

 

·          Loss of community character;

 

·          Connecting the district, with adequate pedestrian ways, bikeways, or other alternatives to the automobile, to schools, recreation areas, cultural centers, and retail shopping in other planning areas; and

 

·          Maintaining public safety through traffic calming measures and design encouraging safety and livability.

 

Middle Ocean Springs District.  The Middle Ocean Springs planning area is characterized by the initial post-World War II development that occurred in the City and outside of the City that later was annexed.  The area consists of primarily residential development mixed with some institutional uses.  Within the district, pockets of blight have emerged as the housing stock has aged and not been maintained.  The district also has several large vacant parcels that may provide opportunities for in-fill development that could enhance the area if properly planned and designed.  Planning issues include:

 

·          Lack of land use patterns and traditional architectural and landscape elements representative of the historic character of Ocean Springs;

 

·          Prevention of spread and further deterioration of pockets of urban blight;

 

·          Additional infrastructure investment, primarily for water and sewer improvements/extensions and stormwater management;

 

·          Lack of multimodal transportation options; and

 

·          Preservation of open space and protection of natural resources.

 


Northeast Ocean Springs.  The majority of the remaining vacant land within the present corporate limits of Ocean Springs is in the Northeast Ocean Springs planning area.  The topography of the area is flat and much of the soil, vegetation, and hydrology are characterized as pine savannah wetlands.  While the environmental constraints in the area do not prohibit development altogether, they do require special planning and design to assure minimal impact to the health, safety, and welfare of the public and environment.  Prior development in the area, some of which occurred prior to annexation into the City, was not designed with the environmental constraints in mind and has resulted in costly drainage and related infrastructure improvements. 

 

The emerging development pattern and character in North East Ocean Springs is suburban.  The land use is predominantly single family residential.  The function, spatial qualities, and encounter levels all are similar to those in the Fort Bayou and Southeast Ocean Springs districts.  The landscaping, open space, and other environmental qualities are lacking more than other predominantly residential districts. Even though there are parks in the planning area, the North East Ocean Springs district does not have a distinct public realm that serves as a center of the neighborhood.  Earlier developed subdivisions are showing the initial signs of blight as evidenced by property maintenance and nuisance code violations.  The lack of a public realm, which is a component of creating a sense of place in which people can have pride, may be one factor contributing to the declining quality of life in earlier developments.  Planning issues include:

 

·          Creating a sense of community and character;

 

·          Creating a safe physical environment though quality design;

 

·          Proper management and maintenance of codes- property maintenance, nuisance, and environmental;

 

·          Connecting the district, with adequate pedestrian ways, bikeways, or other alternatives to the automobile, to schools, recreation areas, cultural centers, and retail shopping in other planning areas;

 

·          Additional infrastructure investment, primarily for water and sewer improvements/extensions and stormwater management; and

 

·          Encouraging compatible mixed uses.

 

Evidence that this area is one of the fastest-growing in the City can be found in the volume of recent development activity – recent residential subdivision developments include Trentwood, Lakeview 1, Lakeview 2; recently approved residential subdivisions include Lakeview 3 and Southwind; current proposed subdivision development includes a mixed use planned development (single- and multi-family residential, general commercial) and Lakeview 4.


Southeast Ocean Springs.  Southeast Ocean Springs houses a significant number of new residential developments that occurred as a result of the gaming industry coming to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  As with the Fort Bayou District, the development patterns and character are typical suburban.  The land uses are a mix of residential, institutional, conservation, and limited neighborhood commercial along Government Street with the predominant use being single family residential in the district.  The remaining vacant land in the district does provide the City one of its last opportunities within its present corporate limits to reclaim its character and prevent further loss of natural resources that provide much of the character to Ocean Springs.  Planning issues include:

 

·          Loss of open space and lack of natural resource protection;

 

·          Loss of community character;

 

·          Connecting the district, with adequate pedestrian ways, bikeways, or other alternatives to the automobile, to schools, recreation areas, cultural centers, and retail shopping in other planning areas;

 

·          Maintaining public safety through traffic calming measures and design encouraging safety and livability;

 

·          Additional infrastructure investment, primarily for water and sewer improvements/ extensions and stormwater management; and

 

·          Encouraging compatible mixed uses. 

 

Critical Neighborhoods

There are areas within the City that have unique characteristics and should be afforded additional considerations to assure preservation and appropriate development.  These areas are identified as the Central Business District and Inner Harbor District on the Future Land Use Map. During the development of the Zoning Ordinance, these areas need special attention to preserve the areas which may be achieved by special district designation, overlay districts, and use district designation.

 

The Central Business District is perceived by many to be the heart of Ocean Springs.  The area contains commercial uses along Washington Avenue and Government Street with a mix of commercial, public and residential uses on the surrounding streets.  Narrow lots and zero or small setbacks are typical throughout area.  Architectural styles and density varies.  The CBD has developed as a pedestrian friendly area with tree lined streets and canopies.  The diversity of this area is a positive attribute and should be encouraged by regulating ordinances that follow this plan.

 


The Inner Harbor District is another unique area of the city.  The District plays a critical role for Ocean Springs because it is characteristic of the community’s image, exemplifying the type and mix of desired and appropriate uses.  Located between Front Beach and East Beach, the Inner Harbor District is a small craft harbor located among traditional single-family detached dwellings.  The District provides small craft storage slips for personal vessels, yet also permits single family residential units and limited marine-related commercial activities, which include the sale or service and supplies for those who use the harbor.  The protection and preservation of the harbor and the surrounding neighborhoods is an important task for the City.  The continuance and further development of permitted uses should be encouraged.  Uses, whether marina-based on not, which should be prohibited include moderate- and high-density residential, moderate- and high-intensity commercial uses, repair shops and industrial activities because they are not conducive to the character and environment surrounding the harbor.

 

The Government Street Redevelopment Area is a neighborhood in transition.  Its location adjacent to the Gateway Corridor and Central Business District challenges the long-term viability of existing single-family dwellings - the neighborhood is surrounded by commercial uses, which depresses residential valuations.  The City is committed to providing and maintaining adequate infrastructure for the redevelopment area, evidenced by recent investment in street, sewer and drainage improvements.  The transitional nature of the area is anticipated to be part of a long-term process, the pace of which is solely dependent on market forces, due to its anticipated conversion from a residential neighborhood surrounded by commercial uses to part of an integrated commercial activity node linking Gateway Corridor and CBD uses.

 

Economic Development

The current business make-up of the CBD is comprised of small retail shops, including a significant amount of arts stores, service establishments, such as beauty salons, professional offices, such as law offices, and restaurants.  Many of the existing retail businesses are well suited to serve a tourist population and people shopping for special occasions; however, the central business district needs to attract more businesses that serve “everyday” needs of the City’s residents, especially in adjoining residential areas.  As of the time of writing the Comprehensive Plan, many residents travel to the businesses in the “gateway” planning area to purchase consumer commodities, such as groceries, clothing, etc.  Not only would recruitment of businesses providing “everyday” needs and services make the central business district more competitive with the commercial strips in the “gateway” planning area, but it would encourage less reliance on the automobile.  Furthermore, if successful in developing a more diverse retail and service base, the central business district may attract residents from other areas of the City who are shopping for “everyday” products; consequently, it, again, will have to face the perceived parking problem.  As written above, the perceived parking problem is one of the issues that the City, the Chamber of Commerce, and private property owners in the central business district will have to address for business retention, expansion and attraction.

 


A second retention, expansion, and attraction issue is the integrity of some of the buildings in the central business district. Some of the buildings are very old and poorly maintained, especially in terms of plumbing, electrical and drainage.  In a few of the buildings along Washington Avenue, up to three inches of sewage have backed up into the building because of undersized, aging piping. During heavy rains, many of the shops are subject to flooding due to inadequate street drainage  and buildings either being built or having settled too low below grade. Sidewalk flooding also occurs during heavy rains.  The situation will have to be studied and the City will have to invest in making substantial improvements, such as using drain tiles under Washington Avenue to carry the water east toward Jackson Avenue. In addition, the City should evaluate the development of financial incentives to make it more cost-effective for property owners to address building deficiencies.

 

The third retention, expansion and attraction issue is geographic space.  Existing buildings will have to be rehabilitated in order for larger businesses to make the most efficient use of floor area.  The alternative is for a new business to demolish and remove an existing building; however, without proper design controls in place, the City would encounter the risk of having new construction being incompatible with the existing mass and scale of extant buildings.  In-fill potential is limited in the central business district due to the development patterns that have occurred over time.

 

Obstacles to continued growth and diversification aside, private and public entities have been extremely successful in keeping the central business district a key focal point for existing local businesses and residents through festivals throughout the year.  The most notable festival is the annual Peter Anderson Festival.

 

Within the area of the central business district, one of the most pleasing attractions and characteristics is the live oak lined streets.  As noted in the Strategies for Redevelopment:  Master Planning and Guidelines for the Redevelopment of Ocean Springs (1999), it is essential that the City preserve and protect historic live oaks lining the streets.  The community needs to preserve existing green spaces and provide new ones in the area.  The live oaks in the City are important both for their historical value as well as function of providing shade and creating a “common thread” throughout the community.  The trees are large in the central business district and provide shade and shelter.  Existing green spaces are small and intimate, not overwhelming and empty.  Coupled with the trees and green spaces, the buildings are well scaled to the pedestrian.  Except for the Villa Maria retirement building, the buildings do not overpower people in size or proportion.  With its excessive height, the Villa emphasizes the more comfortable scale typical to the central business district. 

 


While some of the analyses could be considered to be a means of justifying the need for future parking facilities and more or less support designing the city strictly for the automobile, these analyses provide some insight into conditions of the City’s Central Business District at a certain point in time and serve as a base for analyzing what progress has been made.  A visitor to the Ocean Springs central business district in 2000 undoubtedly will find a district that is bustling both with people and automobiles; however, the “confusion”as described in the 1971 Plan does not appear prevalent.  Also, the previous image of a central business district lacking in attractiveness, cleanliness, and busyness does not appear to be true.  Moreover, the “congestion” lamented in the 1971 Comprehensive Plan also may be considered in present planning theory a “natural” traffic calming measure making travel by foot safer.  The central business district, contrary to what had been written in 1971, is Ocean Springs’ greatest asset according to many residents and should be given considerable attention to preserve that character and vitality.

 

Transitional Neighborhoods

Transitional areas typically allow for uses and site designs that create a shift between higher intensity uses and lesser intensity uses; they also are areas that are functionally between the residential, stable planning area and the redevelopment planning area.  While transitional areas have not declined to a state of blight that would qualify them as an area in need of redevelopment, they have not maintained the integrity that is observed generally in the predominant residential areas.  They typically are some of the earlier post World War II suburbs of the City of Ocean Springs.

 

The primary areas of declining housing in the transitional area are along Bills Avenue, between Bechtel Boulevard and Halstead Road, and off Morris Noble Road in the vicinity of Clay Boyd Park, as well as small “pockets” adjacent to the preceding areas.  The 1971 Comprehensive Plan concentrated on a larger neighborhood area than the housing in the transitional planning area, but set forth as one of the primary goals to “conserve this neighborhood through code enforcement and proper buffer areas between mixed land uses.”  While most of the neighborhood established in the 1971 plan in which the transitional area is located has been conserved and maintained, the areas in the transitional area have suffered declining housing standards as assessed by the City’s Community Development and Planning Department.  Attributes that contribute to the assessed degenerating standards include deferred maintenance of properties and aging housing of lesser quality construction.  Many of the properties have not reached a state in which they would be considered unsafe for habitation, but if past maintenance trends continue, it will only be a matter of time before public safety issues evolve.

 

As with the redevelopment planning area, the transition of the housing in the area may be considered a naturally occurring process in the urban ecology.  The area at present does provide some of the more affordable housing opportunities for lower to moderate income residents- opportunities which for the most part are absent in other parts of the City.  Potentially, in the long term, reinvestment circumstances may arise for entrepreneurial persons as properties and their associated values decline in that properties may be acquired at a lesser value and allow the investor to put more capital towards rehabilitating or rebuilding properties.

 

Preservation of Residential Areas


The needs of a community to be a viable, active and livable city require land uses other than single family residential.  The activities that support residential land uses create a need for recreational, commercial, retail, office and industrial uses as well as an efficient infrastructure and thoroughfare system.  However, today single family residential land uses still make up the greatest percent of Ocean Springs’ land uses.  Vacant lands still comprise significant acreage in the entire City, but continue to be developed with new single family development.  Neighborhoods for the most part exist as stand alone enclaves and the sense of connection is minimal as a result of poor planning that discourage a mixture of residential uses and activities that support those uses; for example, the 1971 Comprehensive Plan clearly segregated uses the impact of which can be evidenced today.

 

The City has obstacles to achieving the aforementioned balanced growth in the existing residential areas.  The first is physical constraints, both natural and man-made.  The abundance of natural drainage areas, bayous, and areas of sloping terrain make inter-connectivity difficult without having a significant environmental impact.  In addition, the layout of roads is not conducive to creating enclaves of neighborhood commercial stores to serve adjacent residential populations.  The latter factor is a result of a second obstacle - social perceptions.  People have been very hesitant to have an integration of uses which produce neighborhoods.  Roads purposefully have been designed not to interconnect to discourage through-traffic.

 

While the preceding may not apply to all streets on which residential development has occurred, it is evident throughout the planning area.  As a result, the City needs to focus on maintaining property values by assuring property is maintained, residential areas are kept safe and free of traffic violators and crime, the natural environment is protected, and adequate water, sewer, and stormwater facilities are provided.  Consequently, an environment has not been constructed that would allow for neighborhood commercial uses to be incorporated into residential areas, because often there is no system of adequate traffic circulation.

 

Residential use patterns have consumed the majority of the available acreage within the City.  Residential property owners are passionately protective of their investments in single-family residential dwellings.  The majority of residential development in the area consists of medium to large lot single family detached dwellings.  Along Porter Avenue, there are some neighborhood commercial uses, such as restaurants and service related uses.

 

Substandard Housing

The 1971 Comprehensive Plan identified seven (7) objectives to address the issue of substandard housing in the planning area:

 

·          Clear and redevelop the blighted areas between Government Street and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad;

 

·          Eliminate and rehabilitate the remaining blighted areas through proper code enforcement;


 

·          Pave and improve streets and thoroughfares within this neighborhood in accordance with the Major Thoroughfare Plan;

 

·          Ensure that city parks and recreation facilities are available for residents in all neighborhoods in accordance with the Community Facilities Plan;

 

·          Renovate and improve school facilities in accordance with the Community Facilities Plan;

 

·          Provide additional public safety facilities, primarily a fire station, in developing neighborhoods to provide better service to residents; and

 

·          Provide low-income housing to accommodate those residents displaced by redevelopment.

 

Some of these objectives have been achieved since the adoption of the 1971 Plan; others have not been achieved, due partially to the City’s lack of a formal community development program and not adopting the Standard Housing Code.  Though changing economic and market conditions has led to significant growth along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a negative consequence has been to increase the price (cost) of undeveloped but developable land and reduce housing affordability.

 

City policy makers and local residents and business owners have recognized that good neighborhoods cannot be created by fixing up specific buildings through public funds or by selling them cheaply to willing buyers.  Safe, quality communities are built in an enduring way, only when residents one step at a time become better off and make upgrades themselves.  Public funds cannot long bolster neighborhoods for which there is minimal private demand and in which there is insignificant individual investment of money, labor, and love.  Social structure and stability is shaped through the endeavor to preserve and upgrade neighborhoods in which residents have an ownership stake, even in relatively modest housing. 

 

Neighborhoods should be allowed to discover their real level of value, so as to set the stage for their long-term, sustainable renewal.  All cities experience long-term real estate demand cycles. Cities can be thought of as urban ecosystems, in which various districts and residential neighborhoods fill a variety of niches and play a variety of roles.  New businesses or entrepreneurs both in and outside of the redevelopment planning area need  inexpensive real estate and property that can be found in neighborhoods that have survived their avail for other purposes.  For example, vacant lots, cheap loft space, and abandoned factory buildings have become the kindling for the sparks of new economic ideas in many cities throughout the United States.  If poorer neighborhoods are not allowed to fall in value to their true market level, but instead are artificially sustained, the opportunities for their reuse can never be realized. 

 


None of the above should indicate that government cannot, or should not, make underused land or buildings more easily adaptable to new uses.  There are innumerable ways in which the City can support market forces that help to renew areas such as the redevelopment planning area, such as demolishing dangerous buildings to create developable lots and improving streets and infrastructure.  As land and property values “bottom out,” developers and buyers with foresight will find new uses for them.  The cycle must be allowed to run its course.  Upholding neighborhoods with government dollars prevents them from hitting "bottom" and in turn prevents the infusion of real capital investments that would otherwise lead to real, sustainable growth.  The preceding also would allow for the construction of modest low-cost homes, built on cheap urban land and marketed to the upwardly mobile poor.  Other groups of the poor should be expected to continue to rely on used housing. 

 

Historically, however, the working poor have also had access to modest new structures as well.  Private programs such as Habitat for Humanity, which uses volunteer labor and materials, in part, to offer two- to three-bedroom homes for less than $50,000, point the way toward a new generation of such modest structures, as does the potential for manufactured housing.  Moreover, easing ordinances such as zoning and building codes can help clear the way for such structures, which would stand in the tradition of row houses, bungalows, and other privately built housing that was affordable for those of low income by virtue of their low cost and relatively high density. Before widespread use of regulatory mandates and zoning ordinances, private markets generally provided housing for the poor.

 

During the period from 1890 to 1930, for instance, truly vast amounts of new working-class housing were built in American cities.  In Philadelphia during that period, for instance, some 299,000 brick row homes were built--many of which have stayed in use.  Data from the period show that a significant percentage of residents of poor neighborhoods lived, not in tenements owned by rapacious absentee landlords, but in small homes that they either owned themselves or in which the owners also lived, renting out one or more units in addition to that in which they lived.  The City, thus, has a responsibility to manage the transition of the redevelopment planning area, helping to steer developers toward new uses in which the market wants to invest.

 

Two additional issues need to be addressed that hinder the redevelopment of the area.  First, the majority of houses in the redevelopment planning area are rental units.  The inhabitants do not have full control of the property and, consequently, do not have the ability or incentive to maintain the property to the highest standards practical.  The burden of property maintenance, therefore, falls on landlords.  Second, the residents of the community have not organized to pull together their resources, which  may enable them better to reinvest in the neighborhood. 

 


It is easy to focus on the negative aspects of a blighted area.  However, it should be noted that there also are positive elements that provide opportunities and assets.  Redeveloping areas have assets on which the residents, developers, and the City should capitalize.  By focusing on what resources are available, the City can enable the creation of a more sustainable living environment, both for residents and the community as a whole.  When property values are comparatively lower than in other parts of the City, opportunities exist for entrepreneurial investments.  Through the foundation of a coalition between local lending institutions, the City, and organized neighborhood residents, a pool of capital for reinvestment potentially can be created.  It strictly is a matter of vision for both local leaders and residents.

 

Preservation of Historic Areas

Ocean Springs faces challenges due to evolving suburban sprawl development patterns, which do not possess the same characteristics (compact development patterns, pedestrian oriented, grid streets) of the City’s historic development pattern.  New development within the fast growing community have superimposed land uses onto what had been vacant undeveloped land.  One point that will provide stability, as well as a sense of tradition, is the existence of historic districts throughout the planning area.  Housing outside of the historic districts tends to blend with that in the historic districts in terms of scale and density.  The architectural styles range from typical ranch style to concrete block to neo-traditional.  Landscaping in general is similar in terms of amount preserved and enhanced as may be observed in the historic districts.  Historic districts are shown in the exhibit titled Historic District Map, and are described, below:

 

·     The Old Ocean Springs Historic District became a National Register District in 1987 and a local district in 1990.  The district is comprised of several residential blocks situated to the south and west of the central business district.  The district is unique, because of its history of mixed use (residential, commercial, professional, etc.) particularly along Jackson and Washington Avenues.  The area reveals an abundance of high style architecture both well suited and adapted to the Gulf Coast climate and indicative of the continuous development of Ocean Springs as a resort community.

 

The Old Ocean Springs District is significant for its diversity of architectural styles, local stylistic adaptations, and variety of building forms.  Greek Revival, Queen Anne, and Craftsman stylistic interpretations preponderate upon Creole cottages, Planter’s cottages, shotgun houses, and bungalow forms.  Climactic influences are reflected by both the scarcity of chimneys and the plethora of porches.  The area also encompasses churches and community buildings, as well as numerous residences rehabilitated for modern non-residential uses.


 

                                                                       INSERT

                                                             Historic District Map

                                                                      EXHIBIT

 


 

·          The Bowen Avenue Historic District encompasses a linear area of three blocks of Bowen Avenue, which runs east-west between Ward and Washington Avenues.  The district is comprised of the frontage properties along Bowen Avenue between General Pershing and Bellande Avenues and one additional property west of Bellande Avenue.  Initially developed from 1890 to 1930, the neighborhood grew slightly northeast of the Old Ocean Springs area.  Citizens of more moderate means built the area as evidenced by the uniformity and modesty of both scale and detailing.   As a middle-class development, these dwellings reveal the diversity of influences within a prestigious resort community, yet maintain a cohesive collection of residential architecture.  The dwellings are either vernacular or have few stylistic details, with high style architecture being the exception rather than the rule.  Even so, the district displays examples of Victorian Italianate, Creole Cottages, Bungalows, Victorian Shotguns, and Queen Anne Cottages.  The residences on Bowen Avenue, which remains narrow and tree-shaded, are isolated from through traffic and newer areas of development.

 





·                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Railroad Historic District is located along the railroad corridor which runs on an east-west path through Ocean Springs’ historic areas.  Illustrative of transportation and industrial influences, the buildings in the district reflect uses related to the              railroad and the surrounding African-American community.  These turn-of-the-century resources reveal the great influence of the railroad upon Ocean Springs’s development.  As a common business practice of the late nineteenth century, the L & N Railroad Company contributed to the neighborhood growth though the construction of worker housing.  A prominent structure, the L & N RR Depot, soon adjoined the railroad as the company and the community prospered.  Commercial enterprise opened in proximity to the railroad as well.  The district is significant for its railroad related architecture, including residential, transportation, and commercial resources.  Four dwellings built circa 1890 by C. W. Madison for railroad worker rental housing are similar to most of the residential housing.  Stylistic details are present on a few of these vernacular frame dwellings.  The district is highlighted by a few highly styled buildings, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Depot, the classically influenced Old Farmers and Merchant State Bank, and the Carter-Callaway and Cochran-Cassonova residences. 


·          The Lover’s Lane Historic District occupies the western shore of a small peninsula which separates the Back Bay of Biloxi from the mouth of the Old Fort Bayou, the stream that curves along the northern limits of the historic development of Ocean Springs.  The development and popularity of Ocean Springs as a historic resort community is reflected in the turn-of-the-century majestic summer estates.  The peninsula was the site of Fort Maurepas, the original French settlement in the colony of Louisiana Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville founded on April 8, 1699.  Lover’s Lane is a narrow roadway edged with thick foliage and bisects the eastern boundary of the district.  Private ownership has prevented extensive archaeological excavation of the seventeenth century European settlement and a silt-entombed ship from the same era, which is designated a National Register site.  The district is significant for its eclectic high-style residential architecture, including examples of Greek Revival, Queen Anne, and the Spanish Colonial Revival styles.  Dwellings within the Lover’s Lane Historic District, dating from the 1870s through the 1920s, also display local adaptations of architectural styles designed to accommodate the climatic challenges of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.   The orientation of the properties toward the bay, the generous scale of landscape design, and the survival of oyster shell paths contribute to the visual character of the area.

 

·          The Shearwater Historic District consists of a series of bluffs overlooking the Mississippi Sound.  The area includes a variety of water-oriented residential architecture secluded by long drives and intense vegetation.  More recent construction respects the integrity of the dynamic waterfront sites.  The Shearwater Historic District has been occupied continuously since the early 1800s and includes the remnants of two grand estates.  One is Kendall property that was developed circa 1850 on which an ice house and two grave sites are extant.  The second is the Tiffen Place which encompasses a circa 1840 Greek Revival residence and its accessory buildings.  Mrs. Annette McConnell Anderson purchased the Tiffen Place property in 1918 as an artists’ colony and for its picturesqueness in natural simplicity.  Her three children included Peter, Walter, and Mac.  Named Shearwater Pottery, the compound served as the family home and became the site of multiple pottery buildings, which have remained in continuous use.  Residential construction in proximity to the estates developed primarily between 1937 and 1978.  Shearwater Pottery has given the historic district significance through the nationally recognized works of Walter Inglis Anderson- muralist, potter, and artist- and the pottery of his brother Peter.  The site and setting, more so than the architecture, define the visual character of the pottery complex.  The tree-shaded properties facing the sound represent examples of the southern farmhouse, Bungalow, French Provincial farmhouse and Colonial Revival.  Also located in the district is the National Register property, the Hansen-Dickey House.

 


·          The Sullivan-Charnley Historic District is comprised of three contiguous waterfront estates located between the Weeks, Halstead, and Davis Bayous on the northeast corner of the intersection of East Beach Drive and Holcomb Boulevard.  Constructed at the end of the nineteenth century, the structures and their dependencies represent the only buildings in Mississippi attributed by substantial evidence to Louis Sullivan (1856-1924) of the renowned architectural firm of Adler and Sullivan.  The firm of Adler and Sullivan designed at least four of the buildings- shingle clad structures of great simplicity and profound horizontality that are markedly similar to the ground-hugging, broad-eaved and hip-roofed designs of Frank Lloyd Wright.  The structures top the crest of a low bluff and command an extensive view of the water over an open sweep of front lawn; the rear grounds are thickly planted.

 

·          The Marble Springs Historic District is irregularly shaped and located in proximity to Old Fort Bayou.  Nineteenth and turn-of-the-century residential architecture lines Iberville Drive, a street shaded by live oaks, between north Washington and Sunset Avenues.  The varied scale of the dwellings and lots reflects the rise and decline of one of Ocean Springs’ most important attractions- Marble Springs.  Exploited for its mineral waters since the 1850s, Marble Springs was touted for its curative powers and offered the only spa bathing facility in town.  As a community social center overlooking the picturesque Old Fort Bayou, Marble Springs became a desirable home site for numerous influential citizens.  The mineral springs ceased to flow when the ground water level lowered as a result of excessive well drilling and the social exclusivity of the area later declined.  The district, a cluster of street-oriented homes, is significant for its contrast of building scale and style.  Houses on the north side of the street are more elaborate in terms of architectural style and larger in mass, setback, and lot size.  In contrast, the south side dwellings are smaller, more vernacular and denser.  The district also encompasses a replica of the historic spring house.

 

·          The Indian Springs Historic District is an irregularly shaped area located in proximity to Old Fort Bayou.  Having a greater sense of informality than that of the other historic districts in the City, the Indian Springs Historic District embodies a variety of residential architecture from the 1850s to the 1930s.  The rehabilitation of many residences within this area for professional use reflects the modern movement to appreciate and reuse historic buildings within the community. 

 


The mineral springs attracted visitors over several centuries, beginning with the native Americans of the Marksville Period approximately fifteen centuries ago and continuing through the development of Ocean Springs as a resort community beginning in the 1850s.  The district also includes the southern landing site of a Fort Bayou ferry, operated by a Portugese immigrant named Franco from around 1860-1890.  Use of the landing ceased with the construction of a bridge in 1901.  The popularity of the mineral springs fostered the later enlargement of the Franco home for a convalescents’ home/motel/restaurant complex; however, the spring ceased to flow freely due to a decline in the water table.  The district is significant for its highly diverse concentration of architectural forms and styles, including somewhat free and individual interpretations and blends of Greek Revival, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Craftsman styles.  The structures generally are one- and two-story frame construction and oriented to the street.  Characteristic of residential areas, tree-shaded lawns and designed planting beds define the landscape with the exception of the increased density of trees and undergrowth close to the bayou.

 

In addition, the planning area encompasses five National Register sites.  The Back Bay of Biloxi Shipwreck Site and the Hansen-Dickey House located at 108 Shearwater Drive have been noted.  The other three are Halstead Place located on East Beach Drive, the O’Keefe-Clark Boarding House at 2122 Government Street, both of which were placed on the register in April 1987, and the Old Ocean Springs High School discussed in more detail below in the “Public facilities and Infrastructure” section.

 

In-fill Development

Due to the lower density nature of residential development, there is strong potential for in-fill development in the CBD.  In-fill development consists of using vacant, underused, or orphaned land for new development.  It can create more affordable development since it uses existing infrastructure.  It also can be used to encourage population growth needed to sustain commercial activities and vitality in the heart of the City.  Furthermore, by using land in mature areas, in-fill development can reduce the demand for housing in undeveloped areas that require new services and reduce the cost to taxpayers.  Forms of potential in-fill development include:

 

·          The addition of new dwellings on vacant lots or other undeveloped parcels surrounded by existing residential development

 

·          Dwelling units added to existing houses (e.g., upstairs apartments)

 

·          Small, detached dwellings added to lots of sufficient size with existing houses (e.g., “mother-in-law” flats)

 

·          Redevelopment of properties

 

·          Neighborhood-related, non-residential development

 


In-fill development inevitably leads to higher density and a mixing of uses.  Historically, the City has been encumbered with zoning and subdivision battles fought by residents trying to prevent new development in the downtown planning area.  Residents used expected diminished property values as the reason for requesting the City’s Planning Commission and Board of Alderman to deny such rezoning and subdivision requests.  Upon occasion, the argument that the new development would diminish existing property values was supplemented by arguments that it also would harm the character of the area.  Most national studies have shown that in-fill development if designed properly enhances property values (sometimes to the point of making it unaffordable for existing residents to live in the area).  The adverse impact on community character may have some validity, but proper design can mitigate potential and perceived adverse results of new development.  It is inescapable that the City will have to develop a means to balance the interests of existing property owners in the downtown development area with the economic and environmental sustainability of the community as a whole.

 

Growth Management and Resource Conservation

To grow or not to grow is no longer the question, but how to grow, at what rate, and with what level of public intervention are the present day questions that Ocean Springs leaders must address.  The term growth management includes efforts to manage community decline as well as efforts to revitalize, diversify, and expand local economies.  While population projections are not an exact science and are but only one indicator of the City’s growth, the projections show that the City must be ready to accommodate a 44% increase in population.  Based on past trends, approximately one hundred fifty (150)  acres are expected to be used for non-residential purposes, with the remaining five hundred ten (510) acres to be developed as residential property.

 

Growth is anticipated to occur throughout the planning area, limited primarily by infrastructure and land availability.  Higher density development, of course, can house more people on less land and lead to either slightly higher population figures with the same amount of land being used for non-residential uses or more land being developed for non-residential uses while maintaining the same population.  In either instance, the City must prepare for the continued influx of people on the east side of the City.

 

Between 1990 and 1995, realty assessments in Ocean Springs experienced a 1.48% per year increase, a total growth of $2.7 million.  During the same five year period assessments on all taxable property experienced a 3.27% per year increase, a total growth of $8.7 million.  Very little of the growth was in any way resultant from gentrification of properties in or around the downtown area or replacement of older residents with younger residents.  Real estate contributed thirty one percent (31%) of the City’s assessment growth during the period studied and most of the addition involved new homes built in areas previously annexed to the City and new commercial properties added along U. S. Highway 90.  Between 1995 and 2000, similar trends are speculated to have persisted.

 

The Draft Growth Management Plan Element (1995) identified accorded annexation as the primary tool for managing growth.  Rationalizations for using annexation as the main growth management strategy included the following:

 


Opponents to orderly growth and development through annexation appear to acknowledge that Ocean Springs is heavily built out, but say our land should be more “built up,” meaning that the intensity of land use within our City should be higher or the use of the land should somehow be ‘better.’

 

Though annexation is but one method for the City’s to manage growth, other tools are available.  The City should communicate with local business owners and residents to identify and explore other growth management techniques and their impacts on density, community character, the environment and the economy of the City.  City residents are divided on the issues of growth and density primarily because they cannot envision well designed higher density uses due to the lack of local examples to which they can refer.  Based on interviews with local residents and business owners, protection of trees and the natural resources that are some of the most defining features of the City is a priority and interviewees immediately recognized that the development patterns and design over the past twenty to thirty years have done little to safeguard those resources.  Many expressed a willingness to accept higher density development designed in accordance with locally acceptable standards as a trade off for preserving the natural beauty of the City.  Higher density and intensity development is thought by most interviewees, residents, and business owners to be appropriate for the developing fringe planning area and the “gateway” planning area.

 

The City can only influence how the remaining land in the City is developed.  The City, however, can provide more development options than are allowed under the current rigid zoning ordinance.  Consequently, the landowner is left to his/her discretion to develop the property to a suitable density allowed by market conditions, while the City focuses on ensuring the development does not exceed its site carrying capacity based on (1) environmental conditions, water and sewer availability and capacity, and accessibility via an adequate transportation network, (2) locally accepted design standards, and (3) natural resources protection on the site.

 

The City has a variety of growth management tools from which it can choose.  Capacity constraints of the existing road network can be used to determine the development potential of a property to specific densities or intensities.  The maximum amount of development can be correlated to a preferred service level at which roads should function during the peak hour. Where traffic congestion already is present (or is projected to be present when the area is more fully developed) the maximum gross density can be lowered than what typically would be allowed and the maximum intensity, based on a standard such as floor area ratio, can be reduced below what typically would be allowed for nonresidential projects.  The location of a development in relation to the network of arterial and collector roads in the City plays the most important role in determining the development potential of a parcel under this approach.  The development capacity of an area served by a particular segment of an arterial or collector road within the Developing Fringe Planning Area is limited by the capacity of the collector road which immediately serves that general area and the capacity of the arterial road which is the primary traffic receptor from that collector road. 

 


For arterial and collector roads, the development potential of property is based on a pro-rata share of the available road capacity (i.e., maximum trips per acre based on the level of service desired) and not on a first come first serve basis.  For arterial roads, the development potential of property is ultimately restricted by the level of service since potentially the actual amount of development in the area served by an arterial road could exceed the maximum capacity of the arterial road many times over.  If the road is a City road not planned to be improved, or if a property owner wishes to raise the permitted capacity to a level higher than the level that was determined by the City for any improvements, then the applicant may pay for the necessary improvements as well as for any additional right-of-way required.  Any improvements for which a property owner pays may not be used to increase the permitted density of any other proposed developments in the area- other than those in which that applicant has an interest- unless a subsequent property owner agrees to pay a pro-rata share of the cost of the improvements to the applicant who funded the improvements.  The increase in the maximum number of permitted trips in the area resulting from the improvements can serve as the basis for determining the pro-rata share to be paid by any subsequent property owner.  By following certain procedures designed to achieve the preceding, the property owner can increase the density or intensity of the use.

 

In-fill development is a growth management alternative; it is a viable tool for protecting the remaining resources in the developing fringe area while meeting the housing and commercial needs of new residents.  The City can encourage in-fill development- the higher density development of vacant and underutilized parcels of land in otherwise built up area and in the other planning areas as a growth management strategy.  Although high density once was considered to be a major source of unhealthy cities, it now is encouraged as an powerful means in the effectual use of land and preserving open space.  In-fill development can be in various configurations ranging from multi-family housing to smaller lots to mixed use development to attached dwellings. 

 

Performance zoning is yet another way the City can manage its growth in the developing fringe.  The basic premise of performance zoning is regulating land use based on permitted impacts versus permitted uses.  It is more concerned with end result as opposed to a prescription of what use is appropriate.  The assumption of traditional zoning as used by the City is that different uses must be physically separate or distant from one another in order to protect them from one another, whereas with performance zoning land uses should be separated only to the degree that they create negative impacts on neighboring or adjacent properties.  In general, performance zoning departs from fixed requirements excepting standards to regulate density, intensity, environmental impact, traffic impact, and mitigate nuisances to maximize freedom and flexibility by giving a property owner many options in developing land.  As with any regulatory system, there are pros and cons, but communities throughout the nation have implemented performance zoning to varying degrees to produce higher quality development with minimal impact on existing residents and the environment.

 


There are further options for managing growth the City can evaluate; however, to discuss all of the growth management tools available is beyond the scope of this plan.  Some tools are more market oriented, while others rely more heavily on government intervention and management.  The City will need to carefully evaluate which tools are most appropriate in view of the state enabling legislation, staff availability and capability, and socially acceptability.

 

Any tools that the City chooses to use to manage its future growth must give due consideration to the protection of its remaining environmental resources.  Environmental constraints do not necessarily render land unusable, but they do require that development is carefully designed to protect water quality and quantity to assure the health and safety of residents.  Design consideration must address the availability of water and sewer, proper drainage systems that incorporate the use of natural features, and the amount of impervious surface created by new development that will affect runoff rates.

 

Annexation

In Mississippi, annexation is the public process by which cities may extend municipal services, voting privileges, regulations and taxing authority to new areas with the specific intent of protecting the public’s health, safety, and welfare.  With Ocean Springs’ rapid growth and need to diversify land-use to attract new business and industries, annexation of new land may be necessary for the intelligent and effectual extension of City services.  If the City does annex, it must be prepared to provide public facilities and services to new residents within a reasonable time, typically within a five-year period.  Public services and facilities, when offered, may be required to provided at the same level of service as provided to existing residents, a factor which is critical to implementation of a legally defensible impact fee program (which has been proposed to fund growth-related costs). 

 

To prepare for long-term growth, it may become necessary for Ocean Springs to annex adjoining lands for the long term well-being of the community.  However, annexation must be done in accordance with State law and established policies and plans and not on an ad hoc basis.  It is imperative that the City establish a defined, long-term annexation and growth strategy, as a natural extension of the Comprehensive Plan process – a strategy that identifies opportunities, constraints and fiscal impacts.

 

This section of the land use element identifies key issues relating to annexation, growth and development within the Planning Area.  Most significantly, this element focuses on cooperative and coordinated growth management with the County and neighboring jurisdictions and assessing the fiscal impact on City resources prior to committing the City to a course of action.

 

·          Coordinating with Jackson County.  Growth management strategies directly affect growth in and around Ocean Springs.  Planning and preparing for growth, and improving inter-governmental and service provider coordination, particularly in matters relating to capital improvements and development standards is critical.  Particularly important is the coordinated limitation of development in inappropriate locations (i.e., in open space or in outlying portions of the Planning Area) or where infrastructure is inadequate.

 


·          Expanding boundaries to provide for and encompass new urban development.  In a political environment that is hostile to annexation, the City will face increasing challenges in addressing growth at its edges.  As a regional service provider, the City has some ability to influence the intensity and character of urban development at its fringe.  Coordination with the County is essential to ensure that the rural development does not create an obstacle to logical growth of the urban area.  Some form of extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) may be negotiated through the use of an intergovernmental agreement.

 

·          Extending facilities to efficiently serve new development.  The City has the ability to grow to the north, northeast and southeast with relative ease.  The challenge is to set investment priorities and identify development policies to ensure that facilities are extended in a manner that does not inequitably burden existing rate payers or taxpayers.  In addition, facilities and services need to be extended in a coordinated fashion to avoid service gaps (e.g., an area with urban sewer service, but inadequate fire protection).

 

·          Upgrading deficient facilities in perimeter development.  As the City grows and expands, it will need to provide for or upgrade a variety of facilities, such as streets, parks, stormwater facilities and fire stations.  The City will need to determine an equitable means of funding new or expanded facilities needed to meet the Citys level of service standards.  The plan should help City decision-makers equitably allocate growth costs between existing and new residents and businesses and should consider all financing alternatives. 

 

·          Planning for growth in a fluid legislative environment.  Each legislative session poses new challenges and opportunities to the City’s growth management program.  The City must stay abreast of changing legislation and adjust its policies to respond appropriately.

 

·          Maintaining a diverse, vibrant economy.  Ocean Springs has maintained a quality of life other communities envy, and is making great strides to expand its economic base to insulate the City’s economy from shifts in any single employment sector.  While continuing to grow and expand its economic base, the City has increased its focus on improving the quality of employment opportunities and providing the necessary resources to attract higher end jobs.  Local efforts will need to continue to focus on the development of a high quality labor and enhancement of local quality of life factors (e.g., school quality, neighborhood attractiveness, commercial opportunities and cultural offerings). 

 

Land Use Categories


Historically, the City has segregated the uses from one another; however, an alternate option for future development is to assess the how the different land uses can be spatially assimilated, rather than segregated, based on compatibility to create a more functional and livable environment.  For example, by allowing low intensity industrial uses to be developed in close proximity to urban (medium density) residential or urban (high density) residential uses with general commercial or low intensity commercial uses exhibiting characteristics found in the Central Business District buffering the uses in a gradation of intensity, conceivably a person could walk to work while stopping by the store for a cup of coffee and newspaper on the way.  Also, deviating from a strict separation of uses can allow a mix of residential types with varying densities to create housing opportunities for all income groups from the service worker to the CEO.  The comprehensive plan divides land uses into the following categories:

 

·          The Conservation land use classification was determined the City of Ocean Springs Growth and Development Committee to be those lands which are not suitable for urban development and use either due to their location and environmental characteristics.  Parcels in the conservation land use classification may be privately-owned or publicly-owned because they have been reserved for wildlife habitat or because they are used for productive forestry, agriculture, or agricultural purposes.  Land in the conservation land use classification may include designated wetlands, floodways, or floodplains, or may contain soils which will not support urban development.  Though some lands may be developable, development in the conservation land use classification should be limited to temporary improvements, buildings or structures that meet all standards adopted by the City and all other applicable jurisdictions for construction in such areas along with the necessary mitigation of resulting adverse impacts.  Sustainability of natural resources, wildlife habitat and protective agricultural and timberland is desired in appropriate portions of the City of Ocean Springs and its Planning Area.  It includes sensitive lands, such as public and private beach areas along the Mississippi Sound shoreline and nearby islands.

 


·          The Residential land use classification was defined as comprising real estate intended to be developed and used for single-family residential purposes, along with additional adjacent open area where it is likely and desirable that such similar development should occur in the future.  According to a 1997 survey, slightly more than thirty-two percent (32%) of the City’s residential land (793.19 acres) was classified as low density (between less than .33 units per acre to .99 units per acre).  In comparison, the 1997 survey also indicated that thirty-five percent (35%) of the City’s residential land (880.28 acres) was classified as moderate density (between 1.00 units per acre to 3.22 units per acre).  Primary uses in the classification are limited to single family detached residences on individual lots and such complementary non-residential institutional uses are intended primarily to provide services to the neighborhood.  Included in the residential uses contemplated for the estate residential land use classification are single family detached residences on acreage sites or platted lots.  Typically, the residential land use classification is fully subdivided, fully improved with urban infrastructure and has frontage on a public road.  However, some land in this classification may not be served by the full range of municipal or certified utilities such as water, sanitary sewers, natural gas or stormwater drainage infrastructure.  Public uses such as schools, churches, parks and recreation facilities, and utility installations necessary to support development were assessed as being permissible non-residential uses subject to appropriate locational, orientation, proximity relationship, site size, access and parking standards.

 

·          The Urban (Medium Density) Residential classification was predicated on acclimating lands and uses intended for higher density single family detached residential subdivision development, medium density developments accommodating two to four unit structures, medium density town home complexes, and lower density multi-family residential complexes along with additional open area where it is desirable and likely that such similar development should occur.   Again, in comparison to the City as a whole, the 1997 survey revealed that 14.37% of land used for single family residential structures, 84.19% of the land used for two to four family attached units, and 1.90% of the land used for multi-family units were classified as urban (medium density) residential-being a density between 3.22 units per acre and less than 10 units per acre.  Included in the area are complementary non-residential institutional and commercial uses as are intended to provide services to the neighborhood. 

 

·          The Urban (High Density) Residential classification was intended for conventional higher density single family residential subdivision development, existing higher density manufactured housing units, subdivisions of two to four family housing units, townhouses and other forms of higher density multi-family housing and additional open area where it is desirable and likely that such similar development should occur.   Once more, in comparison to the City as a whole, the 1997 survey revealed that 17.65% of land used for single family residential structures, 15.81% of the land used for two to four family attached units, and 43.34% of the land used for multi-family units were classified as urban (medium density) residential - being a density between greater than 5.80 units per acre for single family detached units, greater than 9.00 units per acre for two to four family attached units, and greater than 15.00 units per  acre for multi-family attached apartment complexes.  Included in the area are complementary non-residential institutional and commercial uses that are intended to provide services to the neighborhood.

 


·          The Low Intensity Commercial land use classification, which was intended to accommodate small, low impact, neighborhood oriented and residentially compatible business and professional offices, medical and dental service establishments, personal businesses, day care facilities, arts and crafts studios, speciality instructional and educational facilities, indoor recreation establishments, convenience grocery stores (without gasoline pumps), limited service banking and automatic teller machine facilities, pharmacies and similar uses.  Uses were expected to be limited at any development site within the classification to those which in aggregate do not generate high vehicular traffic (more than 100 average daily trips per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area) or high noise levels (not exceeding a decibel noise level or average “day night level” of 65dbA).  Development contemplated for the Low Density Land Use Classification is limited to residential style buildings containing less than 10,000 square feet, not over two and one half stories tall with not over 50% site coverage.  Second story residential uses may be integrated into developments within the Low Intensity Commercial Land Use Classification as well as bed and breakfast inns not to exceed ten guest rooms in size.

 

·          The General Commercial land use classification was designated to include the full range of office, retail and service establishments in which the principal activity is conducted indoors.  Development situations within this classification were to include freestanding single use structures, big box type multi-line establishments, shopping centers of all types, office park complexes, mixed use developments and associated complementary peripheral drive-through type convenience retail and service establishments.  Developments within the general commercial classification were appropriated to primary arterial roads or State highways.

 

·          The Highway Commercial land use classification, which primarily is located along highways and heavily-traveled roadways, includes all uses accommodated in the low intensity commercial classification and the general commercial land use classification along with businesses which are conducted or in which merchandise is displayed outdoors, such as motor vehicle and recreational equipment dealerships, yard and garden centers, building material dealers, outdoor recreational facilities, manufactured housing sales, full service vehicle repair and maintenance facilities, and highway oriented establishments, including but not limited to full service truck stops, large full service gasoline stations and gas/grocery/restaurant convenience stores, hotels and motels, freestanding full service highway oriented restaurants and similar uses oriented to and conveniently accessible to the motoring public.  The City of Ocean Springs Growth and Development Committee recommended that new development in this classification be readily accessible directly from a Federal aid highway, provide on-site stormwater runoff control, and provide for minimal traffic, sound and light impact on developed residential properties.

 

·          The Central Business District was distinguished by its mix of land uses, architectural diversity, yet cohesiveness, a compatible mix of historic and contemporary structures, a viable commercial environment featuring traditional storefront development, a complementary pedestrian circulation system, well developed open spaces, off street parking lots behind and between buildings, and a unifying system of street signs, lighting, furniture, paving materials and landscaping.  The City of Ocean Springs Growth and Development Committee wrote that the Central Business District should combine and accommodate public and private facilities, activities and investments in an ever-changing environment, which preserves the best of the past and adapts to the needs and desires of the City’s residents, businesses, institutions, and visitors.


 

·          The Inner Harbor District was intended to provide a mix of uses consistent with a small craft harbor, providing traditional single-family detached dwellings, small craft storage slips for personal vessels, and limited marine-related commercial activities, such as the sale or service and supplies for those who use the harbor.  Uses, whether marina-based on not, which should be prohibited include moderate- and high-density residential, moderate- and high-intensity commercial uses, repair shops and industrial activities.

 

·          Low Intensity Industrial was intended to accommodate research and development, manufacturing, printing and publishing, commodity and merchandise warehousing, distribution centers, broadcast, public utility and communications activities conducted primarily indoors and including mini-warehousing facilities.  Activities of these use types are those that do not require large volumes of water and its disposal; that do not generate excessive noise, smoke, heat, light, vibration or odors detectable to human senses off the premise and do not involve any pollutants known or suspected to be dangerous to human health and safety.  Sites for larger establishments (accommodating structures containing 10,000 square feet or more) in the low intensity industrial land use classification were relegated to a business park type setting and/or areas directly accessible from a Federal or State highway.  The uses identified were proposed to be served by all necessary utilities without impacting residential or commercial development in the City and to provide for on-site stormwater management.

 

·          The High Intensity Industrial land use classification was intended to accommodate manufacturing, processing, distribution, construction, transportation, utility, communications, concrete and asphalt plants, moving and storage establishments and other similar large labor, material, structural or process intensive activities that are in part or entirely conducted out of doors or which generate large volumes of vehicular traffic, use large volumes of process water, or routinely generate noise, smoke, heat, light vibration or odors detectable to human sense off the premises or which involve any pollutants known or suspected to be dangerous to human health and safety.  Included in the high intensity industrial land use classification were all railroad facilities, electrical generating plants and transformer sites, warehouse and distribution facilities containing 10,000 square feet or more, waste transfer and disposal facilities, water and sewerage treatment plants, and high volume overnight delivery service centers.  Sites for larger establishments in the classification were planned to be in an industrial park type setting and/or to have direct accessibility from a Federal or State highway.  All developments within the classification were judged to require all necessary utilities without impacting residential or commercial development in the City and to provide for on-site stormwater management.

 


·          The Public/Quasi-Public land use classification includes governmental and other institutional facilities including all existing Federal, State, and local government buildings and facilities; all schools and other educational and related facilities; research centers and laboratories; religious institutions and related facilities; libraries, museums, and exhibit spaces for visual arts; community centers, public assembly buildings and facilities for the performing arts; sports arenas, coliseums and stadiums, cemeteries and mausoleums and publicly accessible historic sites. 

 

·          The Parks/Open Space land use classification includes all existing and proposed Federal, State, and local park sites as well as other land that is or should be preserved as open space because of previous commitment, reservation, dedication or environmental constraints.

 

Exiting Land Use

Existing land uses are shown on the exhibit marked Existing Land Uses Map, and are current as of the April 2001.  The exhibit illustrates generalized land uses; the associated data should be used to monitor the consistency of future growth and development in the Planning Area with the goals, policies and recommendations of this Plan.

 

Future Land Use

Ocean Springs’ Comprehensive Plan is the fulfillment of the immense input and conversation that has transpired throughout the planning process leading to the planning of land use development for the future.  The Future Land Use Plan builds the framework on which long term land use decisions can be founded.  It is aimed at providing guidance in the location of future land uses and the redevelopment of inappropriate land uses. Land use is dynamic rather than static.  It is a process that is demarcated by public input and is dependent upon continued participation of residents and business owners for its success.  The Future Land Use Plan is that component of the Comprehensive Plan that links all the factors impacting Ocean Springs.  The purpose of the Future Land Use Plan is to institute an ostensibly efficient direction to delimit Ocean Springs’ future development patterns - where the community members want to go and how the City leaders can get there.

 

The Future Land Use Plan for Ocean Springs is not the zoning map for the City.  The Future Land Use Plan is conceptual and is produced to function as a guide on which future land use decisions can be made.  Future land uses are based on the goals and objectives set forth as short term and long term planning strategies in the Comprehensive Plan.  Tools such as growth management programs, land use ordinances, transportation plans, and capital improvement plans all are used to implement the Comprehensive Plan.  The Future Land Use Map is shown in the exhibit marked Future Land Use Map.

 


Intensity areas have been used to project future land use patterns for Ocean Springs.  The land uses are portrayed by intensity in order to resolve the compatibility and location of new uses within the City.  These intensity levels are used to plan future locations of land uses and establish the context in which proper land use decisions can be made.  Land use intensity areas are as follows:


                                                                       INSERT

                                                           Existing Land Use Map

                                                                      EXHIBIT


                                                                       INSERT

                                                            Future Land Use Map

                                                                      EXHIBIT

 


 

 

 

Intensity

 

Land Use

 

Conservation

 

Open space connectors between Neighborhoods and Land Uses, Sand beach

 

Low intensity

 

Low density and moderate density residential, Parks, Schools, Undeveloped land.

 

Low-to-medium

 

Medium density residential, Low density commercial, Low density industrial

 

Medium Intensity

 

General commercial, Central business district, High density residential.

 

High Intensity

 

Employment Centers, High intensity industrial

 

 

Single family residential development (low intensity) is generally located on a residential street using a residential and neighborhood collector to “collect” the traffic in a neighborhood in order to connect or transport it to a minor or major arterial roadway.  Medium density residential, low density commercial, and low intensity industrial generally are located on a collector street.  High density residential and general commercial land uses are generally located at the intersection of a collector or larger street with a minor or major arterial roadway; this provides direct access to a primary roadway, accommodating a larger volume of traffic from a concentrated area.  In addition, by locating businesses at the “nodes” created by the intersection of a collector with a minor or major arterial roadway, strip commercial is discouraged. This facilitates a more efficient, safer and more effective transportation system.  Employment centers and high intensity industrial uses generally are located along major arterial roadways.  Development design includes industrial campuses, industrial parks with aesthetic standards to protect other users in the park, and employment centers which resemble large office complexes with a high concentration of employees.

 

Intensity areas also may be used to provide a transition between land uses.  For example, townhouses consisting of four units may be used to transition between single-family and multi-family or commercial.  At intervals, professional or service office related uses may be used to provide a transition between single-family and general commercial or between high density residential and commercial.  Sometimes high density residential and general commercial are used to transition between single-family residential and a major arterial roadway or freeway.

 

The Future Land Use Map indicates the following trends (future land uses were projected for areas beyond the planning area boundary to identify regional extra-territorial development patterns):


·          The emergence of the Ocean Springs downtown area as a central business district;

 

·          The identification of primary commercial activity centers at the intersection of I-10/Hwy 609, I-10/Bayou Road (proposed); I-10/Hwy 57 and Hwy 90/Hwy 57;

 

·          The emergence of Hwy 57 as a key commercial and industrial business corridor;

 

·          The emergence of Hwy 609 as a key commercial business corridor; and

 

·          Expanded opportunities to provide additional housing opportunities, for a variety of consumer needs, including desired suburban and estate residential uses, as well as high-density multi-family.


VII.  Community Design and Identification

 

The Ocean Springs Historic Districts Design Guidelines provides detailed descriptions of what architectural and site elements establish the character as well as defining the historical context of development in the area.

 

When most people think of Ocean Springs, they think of what is identified as the Downtown Planning Area.  The Gateway Corridor Planning Area embodies almost none of those qualities as evidenced by the lack of accommodations for pedestrian traffic; the lack of green spaces and abundance of impervious surfaces; the lack of architectural cohesiveness; inappropriate signage; and, the scale of the buildings relative to their setback condition.  In personal interviews and other solicitations of public comment, residents and business owners recognized the physical differences between the gateway planning area and the downtown area, but were not always able to express what characteristics set apart the two or to propose solutions “to fix Highway 90.”  Many expressed the ideal to have “Highway 90 more like downtown,” but also expounded a belief that “it is too late to save it.”

 

Building types in old Ocean Springs provide good examples of what would be helpful in defining qualities contributing to the character of the town.  During the summer of 1998, several local businessmen and property owners in the downtown area requested design assistance from the Small Town Center at the School of Architecture at Mississippi State University to redevelop the downtown area of Ocean Springs.  The Strategies for Redevelopment: Master Planning and Guidelines for the Redevelopment of Ocean Springs (1999) identified building, landscaping and parking characteristics for the downtown area, which are included in the implementation strategies of this Plan.

 

The Strategies for Redevelopment do not prescribe specific architectural materials; however, such standards may warrant consideration.  In addition, the City may wish to develop an alternate set of standards to give Highway 90 and other arterials their own character separate yet related to the downtown development area.

 


Besides building and site architectural features, the area encompassed by the Gateway Corridor Planning District does not embody the landscape of the downtown development area.  The most notable feature on which residents and visitors comment is the live oak tree lined streets in the downtown development area.  The live oaks are extremely relevant to Ocean Springs not only for their historic value, but also for the  character they give the City; they provide shade from the sometimes brutal sun and act as landmarks within the community.  In addition, the trees lend continuity to the fabric of the community.  For example, sidewalks move around them creating spaces for benches and flowerbeds.  Planting and green spaces can be used to break the monotonous repetition of building facades or, in contrast as with the Gateway Planning District, be used to bring some cohesiveness to the district.  Furthermore, they can be used as places of public gathering other than a parking lot.  The trees and other aforementioned characteristics provide a framework for identifying what is the City of Ocean Springs.

 

Community Appearance

Related to the visual impact on the community resulting from a declining housing stock is property maintenance.  Overgrown yards and “junk” stored in the open are visible on a significant number of properties in the transitional planning area.  Overgrown yards and “junk” stored in the open are not characteristic of all properties in the transitional planning area by any means; however, it does detract from the visual character of properties adjacent to ones that do and creates health, safety, and welfare concerns.

 

The City has taken steps to improve the visual appearance along Bechtel Boulevard.  Live oak trees have been planted in the median.  Property owners, unfortunately, periodically use the median for parking vehicles which is extremely damaging to the vegetation at the base of the oaks.  In addition, road “improvements” have threatened the health of the trees.

 

Transitional areas also do not give the appearance of congruous neighborhoods.  They are typical of post World War II suburban development - just houselots and streets part of a “checkerboard” of seamless “wall-to-wall subdivisions” with little open space except for a few remnant areas that are too wet to build on.  In contrast, though, one should note that because these areas are typical of an historical period in the development of the United States, they take on their own significance regardless of (or due to) their aesthetics and functionality (or lack thereof).  Some of the areas do have amenities, such as sidewalks, that connect them to other residential areas or small commercial shopping centers, but where there are pedestrian paths, there is no buffer between vehicular traffic and pedestrian traffic.

 

The City’s land use regulations and tax structure in effect at the time of writing do not mandate and/or provide incentives to design in accordance with locally preferred standards.  For example., the City’s Zoning Ordinance has encouraged disconnected strip centers which line the highways (e.g., the C-3 Zoning District, Highway Commercial).  Maximum setbacks are not established which produces vast parking lots in front of buildings.  Shared parking is discouraged which leads to a substantial amount of impervious surface and, again, a view only of the consumers’ automobiles as one drives through the City.  Higher density  residential developments are strongly discouraged, if not excluded altogether.  One way to address the problems in the Zoning Ordinance as it pertains to the gateway area would be to allow flexibility in the uses to permit a locally acceptable mix, yet establish more restrictive site design standards and possibly architectural standards. 

 

Site Design


Site design plays the most significant role in assuring land use compatibility.  Factors must include transitioning between land use types, intensities, and densities using buffers and floor area ratios; conserving environmental assets using standards to preserve open space and to limit impervious surfaces; providing adequate vehicular and pedestrian traffic circulation and connectivity; mitigating potential nuisances, such as signage, excessive noise, smoke, heat, light, vibration or odors detectable to human senses off the premise; and, designing for public safety.  Present City of Ocean Springs land use regulations are not written to address the preceding issues; they merely prescribe what types of uses are allowed in a specific use district, on what size lot the use must take place, and the minimum standards to which infrastructure must be constructed in order for the City to accept it as part of the public system.


VIII.  Community Services and Facilities

 

In order to maintain a high quality of life for residents of residential areas, the City needs to assure that public facilities and infrastructure are available to serve them in a convenient and functional manner.  Facilities include schools, recreation areas, and cultural centers.  Infrastructure includes adequate means for access and mobility, water and sewer service, and stormwater systems.

 

Financing the public facilities and infrastructure improvements can take several forms.  The most common means for municipalities to finance improvements are requirements for the dedication of land by the property owner or developer, the construction or installation of improvements by the property owner or developer, or the payment of fees to finance the improvements, such as fees in lieu of dedication or impact fees.  The most popular methods used nationally place the full initial financial burden on the developer; however, other methods also are used.  Many smaller jurisdictions construct or pay for the construction of new facilities themselves or subsidize developers who provide them. 

 

In some cases, local governments provide labor or materials and in other cases they partially reimburse the developer for his or her costs.  The creation of a special improvement district is another considerable means of financing improvements.  The property owner(s) or developer applies to the local government for a special assessment, the local government accepts or rejects the application, and, if accepted, the local government uses the proceeds of special assessment bonds or other debt instruments to finance the improvements, and imposes liens on the lots that benefit from the improvements.  Assessments may be collected within a year after the assessment roll is approved or they may be spread over a period of time as long as ten years.  In certain instances, the local government may subsidize the project by assessing less than the full cost of the project against lot owners.

 

Currently, the City of Ocean Springs does require developers to provide certain on-site public improvements at their own expense in the form of the construction and installation of infrastructure improvements and the dedication of land for parks or payment of fees in lieu.  The City also has used special assessments when the property owners or subsequent purchasers will be the sole beneficiaries of the improvements that have been made.  The City is progressing towards the adoption of impact fees which can be applied to off-site as well as on-site facilities and improvements.

 


In order to ensure that the expenditure of public funds and money derived from fees in lieu of dedication or impact fees is done efficiently and fairly, the City needs to develop and implement an on-going capital improvements plan and program.  The 1971 Comprehensive Plan provided the basis for the development of a capital improvements plan and program; however, the information now is extremely out of date.  Furthermore, to assure that the impact fees the City proposes to adopt are legally defensible, the City must approve and enact a capital improvements plan that identifies the improvements the City expects to make in five year cycles and the costs of constructing such improvements.

 

The Community Facilities Element identifies key infrastructure issues facing the community and establishes goals, policies and recommendations to address those issues.  As Ocean Springs seeks to meet the utility needs of future residents, employees and visitors/tourists, it should strive to provide utility services in a reliable and affordable manner.  Basic infrastructure issues include:

 

·          As growth continues, within and adjacent to Ocean Springs, the City will need to ensure that an adequate transportation system is available for residents and visitors, to ensure the uninterrupted flow of traffic through the City.  Traffic calming design options also may be considered to improve community image, lessen congestion and increase pedestrian-oriented opportunities.

 

·          The City needs to expand its water system soon, but the best choice depends on the area and population that the system ultimately will serve.  This element outlines the City’s options for addressing future water and wastewater system needs throughout the planning area. 

 

·          The City's wastewater treatment system is adequate to meet anticipated needs in the City's service area.  However, growth to the northeast or southeast, which does not have sufficient capacity to meet anticipated demands, will require additional infrastructure investment.

 

·          As Ocean Springs grows, increased development within new and existing drainage basins will create additional stormwater management needs.  The existing stormwater management plan does not address potential impacts of increased runoff from anticipated development in the northeast, but improvements are planned to accommodate that growth.

 

The City’s basic infrastructure policies should require that transportation, water, wastewater and drainage system improvements be constructed concurrent with new development and are adequate to meet demands from existing and new users.  While the City does not currently provide utilities for the entire service area, it does require that adequate utilities be provided for all new development.  If facilities are not available, then a developer may:

 

·          wait until facility improvements are installed through the Capital Improvements Program;

 

·          seek participation from the City, other service providers or other property owners to finance the improvements; or

 

·          install the facilities.

 


Transportation

The transportation network within Ocean Springs impacts the exiting land uses and development trends within the City and will impact how the City will grow in the future.  The Transportation Element of the Comprehensive Plan needs to evaluate the existing transportation network to determine what type of improvements are needed to encourage the type of future land use recommended in the Plan.

 

The Draft Action Plan for a Transportation Element of the Comprehensive Plan (1998) identified key transportation issues, which stated that an ongoing transportation planning process should:

 

·          Consider all components of the transportation system which provide access to, from, through and within the City;

 

·          Recognize the functions and capabilities of each transportation component and the relationships between the transportation system components and the land uses and activities they contain;

 

·          Identify opportunities to coordinate with other jurisdictions and agencies;

 

·          Identify the relationship and impact of the transportation system on adjacent land use and development;

 

·          Use transportation improvements to support economic development and improve the level of service;

 

·          Prevent the transportation system from diminishing pedestrian safety, land values, community character or quality of life; and

 

·          Incorporate community values and support Plan goals and policies. 

 

Transportation system components exert substantial and lasting influence and impacts on the configuration and characteristics of land use and development within the area they serve.  They can support economic development and enhance circulation system level of service while at the same time diminishing pedestrian safety, adjacent land values, a community or neighborhood character and quality of life.  The impact of transportation system elements on adjacent land use and development should in each instance be identified, accommodated and mitigated as appropriate consistent with local transportation goals and objectives and other acceptable local values.  A network of roads consists of hierarchy of the following inter-related roadway types, and is shown on the exhibit titled Transportation System:

 


·          Freeways provide for rapid and efficient movement of large volumes of through traffic between areas and across the urban area.  They are controlled access, multi-lane, divided highways devoted to high-speed, long distance traffic movement with little or no access to adjacent land.

 

·          Arterials provide for through traffic movement between areas and across the city with direct access to abutting property.  They are multi-lane roadways to move relatively high volumes of traffic between principal traffic generators at moderate speeds.  Residential access is discouraged; commercial access is limited.  Arterials may be classified as major or minor.

 

·          Collectors provide for traffic movement between major arterial and local streets.  Two to four-lane roadways carry traffic within the urban area and connect it with the arterial system.  They are designed to accomplish both movement and access functions.  Collectors may be classified as major or minor.

 

·          Local Streets provide for direct access to abutting land and for local traffic movement.  These two-lane roads’ primary function is to provide access to adjacent land.

 

To evaluate how the existing roadway network is functioning in Ocean Springs, level of service  information about the arterial roads and collector roads was gathered.  Level of service is defined as the operational environment within a traffic stream perceived by users of the traffic facility.  The concept of level of service was established as a qualitative measure of operational conditions, intended to cover factors such as speed and travel time, delay, freedom to maneuver, traffic interruptions, comfort, convenience, and safety.  Traffic service levels range from “A” (the least congested, with the average driver having to wait no longer than five seconds) to “F” (the most congested, where each vehicle waits at least one minute on average), and are described in the following exhibit.  At the public hearings, stakeholders commented that there are serious concerns with traffic congestion in the gateway planning area, indicating that the levels of service may be unacceptable.


                                                                       INSERT

                                                        Transportation System Map

                                                                      EXHIBIT


                                              Descriptions of Roadway Service Levels

 

Level of

Service

 

Traffic

Flow

 

Affect on

System Users

 

Delays at Intersections

 

A

 

Free.

 

Individual users are virtually unaffected by the presence of others in the traffic stream.

 

0 - 5 seconds/vehicle

 

B

 

Stable.

 

Presence of other users in the traffic stream begins to be noticeable to other users.

 

5 - 15 seconds/vehicle

 

C

 

In the range of stable.

 

Operation of individual users becomes significantly affected by interaction with others in the traffic stream.

 

5 -25 seconds/vehicle

 

D

 

High density, but stable level of traffic flow.

 

Speed and freedom to maneuver are severely restricted, and the user experiences a poor level of comfort and service.

 

25 - 40 seconds/vehicle

 

E

 

Operation at capacity level.

 

All speeds are reduced to a low, but relatively uniform value; comfort and convenience levels are extremely poor and driver frustration is generally high.

 

40 - 60 seconds/vehicle

 

F

 

Represents forced or breakdown of traffic flow; this condition exists wherever the amount of traffic approaching a point exceeds the amount which can traverse that point.

 

Operations within the queues are characterized by stop and go waves, which are extremely unstable.

 

> 60 seconds/vehicle

 

Capacity is an essential characteristic of the roadway system which presently serves and will in the future serve Ocean Springs and its adjacent Planning Area as the roads become more fully developed.  According to the ITE Highway Capacity Manual, “capacity” is defined as the maximum number of vehicles that can be expected to travel over a given section of roadway or a specific lane during a given time period under prevailing roadway and traffic conditions.  Traffic capacity indices illustrate the maximum capacity of thoroughfares with typical dimensional characteristics.  Two important variables are mentioned in the “capacity” definition: prevailing roadway conditions and prevailing traffic conditions.  Prevailing roadway conditions include the numerous factors that contribute to the physical characteristics of roads themselves.  Prevailing traffic conditions include such factors as the volume of traffic, the percentage of total traffic that large vehicles (trucks) constitute, the nature of conflicting vehicular turning movements, and the nature of conflicting vehicular and pedestrian/bicyclist movements.


Roadway levels of service in the City can be described as the following:

 

·          Washington Avenue between the north City Limits to Government Street with a LOS of “F”;

 

·          Washington Avenue between Government Street and Front Beach Drive with a LOS of “D”;

 

·          U.S. Highway 90 between the west City Limits to Ocean Springs Road with a LOS of “E” during peak times and “C” during non-peak times;

 

·          Porter Avenue between Front Beach Drive and Washington Avenue with a LOS of “D”;

 

·          Front Beach Drive between Porter Avenue and Washington Avenue with a LOS of “D”;

 

·          Government Street between Washington Avenue and Magnolia Street with a LOS of “D.”

 

It should be recognized that there is an inherent problem with the using the level of service as one of many quality of life determinants.  The level of service indicator only addresses the use of a road for automobiles and not other modes of transportation of which Ocean Springs residents have expressed fondness (e.g., walking, biking, etc.).  Furthermore, the assumption that levels of service must be increased in order to enhance the quality of life compounds the myth that the present standards are ideal and that current behaviors are worth continuing into the future.

 

Development patterns along U. S. Highway 90 and State Highway 609 have contributed to unsafe, inconvenient, and inefficient circulation.  The 1998 Traffic Volume Report for Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties published by the Gulf Regional Planning Commission in November 1999 lists the 1998 annual average daily traffic (AADT) count for the City of Ocean Springs.  From the Fort Bayou Bridge to U.S. Highway 90 on State Highway 609 (North Washington Avenue), the AADT is 27,000 vehicles.  On U. S. Highway 90 between Bechtel Boulevard and Vermont Avenue the AADT is 39,000 vehicles.  The number drops slightly between Vermont and Washington Avenue to 37,000 vehicles.  Further out on U. S. Highway 90 between Bechtel Boulevard and Ocean Springs-Vancleave Road the number also is lower than between Bechtel and Vermont - 30,000 vehicles.  Beyond Ocean Springs-Vancleave Road, the number falls significantly to 17,000; however, as the east side of the City continues to develop, the number of annual average daily trips should be expected to increase if present trends (development, vehicular use, etc.) continue. 

 


While some of the traffic can be attributed to people traveling through Ocean Springs to industries in Pascagoula and to the casinos and resort areas in Harrison County, the factor that has greatest impact is the commercial uses along the highway.  Almost all developed land along U. S. Highway 90 is in commercial use; it is a very stereotypical suburban style “strip” found in numerous other cities throughout the United States.  The types of commercial uses on Highway 90 generate substantial vehicular trips.  The types of uses coupled with curb cuts every thirty (30) feet in some areas lead to more automobiles on the road, points of traffic congestion, and automobile accidents.  The same situation is true of State Highway 609, especially north of the Fort Bayou Bridge.

 

The conventional approach to such problems has been to widen the road to allow automobile traffic to flow more smoothly.  The Mississippi Department of Transportation will be implementing this approach to widen U. S. Highway 90 from the Vermont Avenue/Martin Luther King Drive intersection to just beyond the Washington Avenue intersection.  While the road widening will alleviate temporarily the existing traffic congestion, widening as a solution has taught leaders in other developed metropolitan areas that it only brings more traffic.

 

One of the primary means of assuring stability in a residential area is by creating an environment, in which people feel safe to live, travel and interact.  In general, Ocean Springs has been very successful in creating such an environment in the residential, stable planning area, which has been a factor in attracting new residents and keeping existing residents.  While isolated incidents of vandalism and theft have occurred as they do in almost any locality in the United States, the primary grievance voiced by citizens is vehicular traffic speeding through the residential areas. 

 

The City has responded to the problem of speeding by strategically placing stop signs when warranted and assigning police officers to study problematic areas for alternative solutions.  In newer residential developments, the issue of speeding may be directly correlated to roadway design.  Roads often are extremely wide (28 feet) with too great of a minimum centerline curve radii.  The rationale for wider residential access streets is based on the notion that such streets should provide for a continuous line of parked vehicles, leaving sufficient room for ordinary traffic and emergency vehicles to navigate around them.  The rationale is not unreasonable for higher density residential developments where there may be insufficient room on a lot to construct two-car garages and driveways and when the residents and visitors of residents use the streets for parking.  In Ocean Springs’ residential areas, most property owners use driveways or garages for parking convenience and safety and their visitors typically follow suit.

 

The subdivision street design standards that are currently used were created to accommodate large traffic volumes in huge-tract housing developments that are more typical of metropolitan and associated suburbanizing areas.  The result has been the construction of local access streets that can be up to fifty percent (50%) wider than the collector roads that serve them.  The street design standards have created other problems for both residents and developers, including inflexible and inappropriate standards for curve designs and gradients that have failed to discourage traffic from exceeding the traffic speed, improper stormwater management from substantially more impervious surface, unsafe pedestrian circulation, and needless expensive construction and maintenance costs.

 


In order to link the residential areas to schools, recreation areas, and cultural centers, adequate means for access and mobility throughout the residential, stable planning area and connectivity to other planning areas is required.  Previous planning efforts have focused strictly on increasing mobility via the automobile.  Strategies have included “upgrading” streets such as Kensington Avenue, Holcomb Boulevard, Halstead Road, and Beach Drive to collector standards and “raising” streets such as Hudson Drive, Bechtel Boulevard, Davidson Street, and Ocean Springs-Vancleave Road to major thoroughfare standards.  To date, while improvements have been made to the preceding roads, they have not been “improved” to the standards proposed in the 1971 Comprehensive Plan.  The City has installed and improved some sidewalks in the planning area, but often they have been constructed without any buffer between pedestrian and vehicular traffic and without a high degree of connectivity.  One constraint has been adequate right-of-way.  Almost no investment has been made in bicycle lanes. 

 

The emphasis on accommodating the automobile has lead to a barrier effect to pedestrians and bicyclists.  The width of the road and the amount and speed of the traffic have an effect on how much of a barrier impact a pedestrian or bicyclist sense.  Roads with a higher level of vehicular traffic generally do not make impassable impediments, but they may give rise to waiting times, detours, and precariousness.  In certain cases, the barrier impact of roads may reduce usage of public facilities and amenities and restrict the freedom of movement of groups such as children, the elderly, and those with walking difficulties.  Quantifying the need to cross a road is difficult, because observations of crossing pedestrians and bicyclists would not necessarily indicate how many times a road would have been crossed if the traffic had been less alarming.

 

Intergovernmental Coordination and Cooperation.  The Mississippi Gulf Coast transportation planning process is administered by the Gulf Regional Planning Commission which functions as the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the coastal Mississippi counties.  This organization maintains and periodically updates an area wide transportation plan with participation of the affected local governments.  The City of Ocean Springs is a participant in this process.  The Mayor serves on the Policy Committee and the City Planner and City Engineer have in the past served on the Technical Advisory Committee of this important area wide transportation planning process.

 

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Transportation Plan is important to its participants because it provides a link to Mississippi’s Statewide Transportation Plan, which is the key to receiving participation in federal and state funding and implementing: road building; street lighting; intersection controls; railroad safety; bridge replacement and repair; traffic safety; bikeways; public transportation services and other important programs designed to help facilitate movement of people to, from, through and within the City.

 


The strategy recommended for the City of Ocean Springs is to remain actively involved in the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Process, to aggressively pursue inclusion of its projects on the Mississippi Gulf Coast Transportation Plan, and to do everything possible to advance the priority of City projects included therein.  When City projects come to the stage of possible implementation, the City needs to be ready to act regarding its participation in the implementation, including use of its political capital, regulatory powers, power of condemnation, if necessary, and allocation of sufficient funds to get the job done.

 

Recommendations for improvement to the roads and highways serving Ocean Springs and its Planning Area are based upon traffic projections performed as part of the most recent Mississippi Gulf Coast Area wide Transportation Plan update.  The following exhibit contains 1995 baseline traffic counts performed by the Mississippi Department of Transportation on various arterial or collector streets, roads and highways in the area, along with projected 2020 traffic volumes for the same thoroughfares.  The recommended improvements were derived, in part, by determining where traffic capacity deficiencies are likely to occur by the year 2020 or before.  Traffic projections were prepared by the GRPC using average vehicle trip generation rates for various land uses.


                                Historic and Projected Average Daily Traffic Volumes

 

Street Name or Designation

 

1987

 

1992

 

1997

 

1999

 

2020 Projection

 

Annual Average Growth

1997-2020

 

Interstate Highway

 

 

 

Interstate 10

  East of MS 57

  Between MS 57 and MS 609

 West of MS 609

 

 

19,330

20,610

20,610

 

 

29,000

29,000

29,000

 

 

39,000

38,000

37,000

 

 

42,000

38,000

38,000

 

 

52,374

51,919

62,641

 

 

581

605

1,115

 

U.S. Highway

 

 

 

U.S. Highway 90

  East of MS 57

  Between MS 57 and O.S. Vancleave Road

  Between O.S. Vancleave Road and MS 609

  Between MS 609 and Biloxi Bridge

  Gulf Islands National Seashore Park Road

 

 

11,940

10.340

22,260

20,140

-

 

 

18,000

18,000

30,000

21,000

-

 

 

22,000

18,000

32,000

31,000

-

 

 

20,000

20,000

-

-

-

 

 

28,457

24,086

34,874

44,509

1,371

 

 

281

265

125

587

60

 

State Highway

 

 

 

Mississippi Highway 57

  North of Interstate 10

  Between O.S. - Vancleave Road and I-10

  Between U.S.  90 and O.S. – Vancleave Road

  Between Old Spanish Trail and U.S. 90

Mississippi Highway 609 (Washington Ave.)

  North of Interstate 10

  Between Interstate 10 and LeMoyne Blvd.

  Between LeMoyne Blvd. and U.S. 90

  Between U.S. 90 and Government Street

  Between Government and Porter Streets

 

 

3,540

NA

760

1,350

 

3,610

8,960

9,600

7,310

1,460

 

 

2,300

NA

3,900

4,350

 

7,100

9,700

15,000

7,500

1,500

 

 

4,400

6,500

6,000

-

 

12,000

18,000

23,000

9,500

2,700

 

 

6,000

-

8,400

5,000

 

12,000

24,000

23,000

10,000

-

 

 

12,306

14,983

5,160

11,533

 

14,824

22,236

28,577

21,357

7,766

 

 

344

369

-37

64

 

123

184

242

516

220

 

Primary Arterial

 

 

 

Government Street - Old Spanish Trail

  Between Washington Ave. and Holcomb Ave.

  Between Holcomb Ave. and Hanley Road

  Between Hanley Road and O.S. – Vancleave Road

  Between O.S. Vancleave Rd. and Beachview Drive

  Between Beachview Drive and Hamill Farm Rd.

  Between Hamill Farm Rd. and MS Highway 57

  East of MS Highway 57

 

 

4,250

4,980

3,340

2,060

-

-

-

 

 

6,400

6,050

5,700

3,800

-

-

-

 

 

6,800

7,300

8,100

5,900

-

-

-

 

 

7,000

7,400

8,100

8,900

3,400

-

-

 

 

16,992

20,319

16,138

11,754

4,179

12,020

457

 

 

443

566

349

255

182

523

20

 

Ocean Springs - Vancleave Road

  Government Street to U.S. Highway 90

  U.S. Highway 90 to Reilly Road

  Reilly Road to MS Highway 57

 

Elgin Road

 

Old Fort Bayou Road

  Washington Avenue to Douglas Drive

  Douglas Drive to Yellow Jacket Road

  Yellow Jacket Road to Elgin Road

  Elgin Road to Interstate 10

  North of Interstate 10

 

Proposed Halstead Road - Elgin Road Connector and Bridge(s)

 

 

2,900

2,690

2,170

 

-

 

 

1,610

NA

NA

NA

NA

 

-

 

 

4,800

4,300

2,900

 

-

 

 

2,100

NA

NA

NA

NA

 

-

 

 

6,000

5,700

6,500

 

-

 

 

2,900

NA

NA

720

560

 

-

 

 

6,700

7,300

5,700

 

-

 

 

4,500

-

-

-

1,000

 

-

 

 

12,042

11,327

9,853

 

10,000

 

 

13,512

3,559

3,556

15,000

1,428

 

12,000

 

 

263

245

146

 

435

 

 

461

155

155

621

38

 

522

 

Note: New route, bridge and interchange should reduce 2020 projected volumes on MS Highway 57, Washington Avenue, U.S. Highway 90 and Ocean Springs-Vancleave Road

 

 

Water System[1]


Water consumption is an important element in determining the adequacy of a water system.  The critical demand elements in a water system include average day demand, max-day demand, max-day demand plus fire flow, peak-hour demand and the maximum storage-replenishment rate.  Existing deficiencies primarily are related to low water pressure; however the City is maintaining a vigorous schedule to improve flow deficiencies.  About 95% of the City is served by municipal water.  A description of water systems capabilities includes:

 

·     Average day demand is the total amount of water pumped on average every day.  This includes both water sold and unaccounted for water.

 

·     Max-day demand is the historical maximum amount of water pumped during a 24 hour period.

 

·     Peak-hour demand is the maximum pumpage required to meet consumer demands during the hour when there is the greatest usage on the system.

 

·     Fire flows represent the amount of water the system should deliver to a hydrant at a residual pressure of 20 psi, as recommended by the Mississippi State Rating Bureau.  Typically these flows create the highest demand on the system for a 2-4 hour period.  The capacity of a system to meet these flows is one of the limiting factors in a City’s classification for insurance purposes.

 

·     Max-day demand plus fire flow is the recommended design standard which the water system should be capable of meeting and maintaining for the duration of a fire.

 

·     Storage-replenishment rate indicates the capability of a water system to provide the necessary quantity of water during max-day conditions and still have the storage tanks full at the end of a 24 hour period.

 

It is generally accepted practice that the source of supply (wells, pumps, etc.) should be capable of meeting max-day demand without use of system storage.  Peak-hour demand and fire flow are met with system storage.

 

Historic Demands.  Pumping records for the four (4) wells were provided by Ocean Springs.  The information indicated total monthly pumpage from March 1998 through August 1998.  Based on this data the average day flow for this period was 2.62 million gallons (MG).  Based on 6,575  total water meters, per customer usage was approximately 399 gallons per day (GPD) or 155 gallons per capita per day (GPCD).

 


Projected Demands.  Information was not available to determine the maximum daily flow.  This condition typically occurs during the summer when residential customers are utilizing potable water for lawn irrigation and other high use activities.  Historically max-day flows range from 1.5 to 2.5 times the average daily flows.  Based on the population of Ocean Springs, and nomographs developed by AWWA and WPCF, the current max-day flow rate is estimated as 8.48 MGD, or approximately 3,890 GPM.  The peak hour demand in the system is estimated to be approximately 1.5 times the max-day demand, or 5,835 GPM.  The following table shows the projected water consumption and demand through the planning period:

 

                                    Projected Water Consumption and Demand

 

Year

 

Population

 

GPCD

 

Average

Day GP M

 

Maximum

Day GPM

 

Peak

Hour GPM

 

1998

 

17,505

 

160

 

1,945

 

3,890

 

5,835

 

2003

 

20,460

 

160

 

2,273

 

4,546

 

6,819

 

2008

 

24,160

 

160

 

2,684

 

5,368

 

8,052

 

2013

 

28,350

 

160

 

3,150

 

6,300

 

9,450

 

2018

 

33,100

 

160

 

3,678

 

7,356

 

11,034

 

Existing System.  The Ocean Springs water system is comprised of wells, elevated storage and a distribution system consisting of 2" through 12" water mains.

 

·          Supply.  Water supply is provided by four (4) deep wells.  Three wells are in the Graham Ferry Formation at a depth of approximately 500 to 561 feet.  The remaining well is located in the Pascagoula Formation at a depth of approximately 960 feet.  Both of these aquifers are very prolific water bearing strata.  Total output is approximately 4,425 GPM.  Based on recent pumping tests, capacities are as follows:

 

City Hall Well            (960')         1,475 GPM @ 45 psi

Handy Road Well            (503')            850 GPM @ 43 psi

Halstead Road Well  (561')         1,150 GPM @ 45 psi

Pabst Road Well        (531')             950 GPM @ 45 psi

 

The water supplied by these wells is of adequate quality to meet the State Department of Health Standards for potable water.  Disinfection is provided with gaseous chlorine and fluoride is added for dental benefit.

 

·          Storage.  Ocean Springs has four (4) elevated tanks as follows:

 

 

 

 

Size (Gal)

 

Overflow

Elevation

 

Total or Deck

Height

 

City Hall Tank

 

250,000

 

124.5

 

104.5±

 

Halstead Road Tank

 

500,000

 

124.5

 

137.5±

 

Civic Center Tank

 

500,000

 

124.0

 

142.0±

 

Hospital Tank

 

150,000

 

124.0

 

104.0±

 

Total available storage is approximately 1.4 million gallons.  The most significant feature of these tanks is their height (97.5 feet - 104.5 feet) which limits system pressure to a maximum of 45 psi static.  Therefore the system operates within a 25 psi range (20 psi is recommended minimum allowable residual pressure permitted by Mississippi Department of Health Standards).  The American Water Works Association (AWWA) recommends municipal systems operate at pressures of 60-70 psi.  This operating range is advisable to minimize low pressures within the system and is critical to achieve adequate flow for fire protection.

 

·          Distribution System.  The distribution network consists of various types of water pipe ranging in diameter from 2" through 12".  There are numerous areas within the City where small diameter (less than 6") lines serve both residential and commercial areas.  These lines are inadequate in size to handle growth or current fire flows.  Asbestos cement (AC) lines, if any, as well as galvanized pipes, no longer meet Mississippi State Board of Health or AWWA standards for use in water distribution systems.  All small diameter, AC and galvanized pipes should be replaced in lieu of repairing as funds become available.

 

·          Fire Flow.  Fire flow demands are based on population, type of area being protected (residential, commercial, industrial) and the type of industry or business located thereon.  Residential fire flows are typically 1,000-1,500 GPM for two (2) hours and commercial/industrial fire flows can exceed 10,000 GPM for ten hour durations.  The Mississippi State Rating Bureau recommends flows of 3000 GPM in commercial areas and 1000 GPM in residential areas at a residual pressure of 20 psi, for Ocean Springs.

 

Limited fire protection is available in those areas served by 6" or smaller water mains.  Mississippi State Rating Bureau fire flow requirements for Ocean Springs are:

 

·     Commercial Area (CBD and along U.S. Highway 90):  3,000 GPM for 4 hours

·     Residential Areas:  1,000 GPM for 2 hours

·     Residential pressure at hydrant - 20 psi

 

The system cannot maintain recommended minimum requirements for fire flows established by the National Board of Fire Underwriters and the Mississippi State Rating Bureau.  The reason is a combination of small size pipe and an operating range of only 25 psi which severely limits flow at the fire hydrant.

 


The State Rating Bureau surveyed Ocean Springs in February 1997.  The water system was found to be efficient for the current fire insurance classification of Class 6.  A Class 6 falls between 2501-3000 deficiency points.  Ocean Springs had 2900 deficiency points, just within the Class 6 category.  In contrast Biloxi is Class 5 (2001-2500) and Gulfport is Class 4 (1501-2000).  In order to move up to Class 5 or 4 would require sufficient improvements to reduce deficiency points by 400, or 900 respectively.  This is a reasonable goal for the City to attain by the next scheduled survey in 2002.

 

Analysis.  A computer analysis of the existing system was performed to determine the adequacy of the existing system.

 

·          Average Day: Average day demand is 1,945 GPM.  The analysis indicates that under average day conditions the system is adequate for all areas of the City with the exception of the Culeoka Subdivision.  The low pressures indicated for this area are due to small water lines and its location at the extreme east end of the City.  Operating pressures of 38-44 psi are prevalent throughout the remainder of the City.

 

·          Max-Day: Max-day demand is 3,890 GPM.  The wells have an output of 4,425 GPM which is more than sufficient to meet max-day requirements.  During max-day conditions low pressures are more pronounced in the Culeoka Subdivision area, while the rest of the City has pressures in the 21-48 psi range.

 

·          Peak-Hour: Peak-hour demand is estimated to be 5,835 GPM for the Ocean Springs water system.  Peak hour flows occur on a daily basis, usually in the early morning hours or early evening depending on the community.  During peak-hour, pressure drops of more than 30 psi are experienced in several parts of the City.  Residents probably notice this low flow from faucets, shower heads and toilet flushing.  Pressures during peak-hour vary from less than 10 psi in some areas to 46 psi in the vicinity of the wells and tanks.  These low pressure conditions are the result of maximum normal operating pressures of 45 psi and pipes of less than 6 inches in diameter throughout many areas of the City.

 

·          Fire Flow: Ideally fire flows are measured during max-day conditions.  However, since a major fire happening during max-day demand is rare, a more realistic approach is to evaluate flows during average day demand.  Fire flow simulations were run during max-day and average day conditions.  The simulation terminated the run during max-day demand with fire flow since it became obvious that sufficient flows at a 20 psi residual could not be attained.  Average day conditions were somewhat improved.  The only areas that developed flows in excess of 1,000 GPM were near the tanks and wells and on the 10-12 inch mains.  This was verified recently in the field when the Wal-Mart fire flow tests were run.  The system could only provide about 1,200 GPM to the site at 20 psi.

 


Mississippi State Rating Bureau (MSB) recommends hydrant flows of 3,000 GPM in the commercial areas and 1,000 GPM in the residential areas in order to achieve a Class 6 rating.  Deficiencies are noted for the distribution system, storage hydrants and pumpage when these conditions cannot be met.  The major reason for this is due to the restriction imposed to system operating pressures by the height of the tanks.  Also, additional transmission mains connecting the wells and tanks would permit more flow with less head loss throughout the system.

 

·          Extended Period Simulation.  The 24-hour max-day extended period simulation (EPS) also revealed several deficiencies in the system.  The most severe problem was associated with the City Hall Well and the Handy Road Well.  These wells pump approximately 2,300 GPM, or one-half of the total system output.  The EPS analysis indicated that the City Hall and Handy Road wells cycled on/off eight (8) or more times during the 24-hour simulation.  During a max-day event the wells should run continuously for most of the day.  The cycling is due to their close proximity to the City Hall Tank and the lack of major feeder lines to the east.  The result is that the Halstead Well and the Pabst Road Well try to meet max-day demands for a large part of the system.  A consequence of this is that after the max-day simulation is complete the Halstead Road Tank, Civic Center Tank and Hospital Tank have not been replenished and an additional 4 to 5 hours of continued pumping is required to fill these tanks.  If the system experiences back-to-back max-day demand conditions the system will be seriously depleted and low pressure (less than 20 psi) will be typical.

 

Improvements.   Deficiencies noted in the existing system should be corrected.  More than 350 residential customers were planned in 1993 for a proposed annexation area in the northeast.  Subsequent analysis will include the proposed additional customers and the projected max-day demand for several time intervals.  The City Engineer currently is reviewing and updating water system growth projections.

 

Various computer modeling scenarios were performed to determine the improvements that should be made to the existing system to ensure that adequate water is delivered at desirable pressures to all areas of the City.  In addition these improvements will enhance the system’s capacity to meet fire flow standards.  These improvements are outlined as follows:

 

·          Supply: New 1,000 GPM well located on the east side of the City.  Final location will be dictated by the presence of sufficient sands in the Pascagoula Aquifer to support the well.  This well will provide additional supply as development occurs easterly along Highway 90.  The well will be controlled by the Civic Center Tank and the new 12" line along Pabst Road will also allow the Pabst Road Well to be controlled by the Civic Center Tank.

 

·          Storage: A new water tank is being constructed and two existing storage tanks are being updated to achieve an average operating system pressure of 62 psi.


 

·          Distribution System: The following improvements to the distribution system are recommended to provide the additional feeder mains between the tanks and wells and to facilitate flow throughout the City:

·          New 8" line on U.S. 90 between Ames Avenue and Vermont Avenue;

·          New 12" line on Pabst Road between Pabst Road Well and Old Highway 90;

·          New 12" line on Highway 90 between the Highway 90 mobile home park and Lakeview Subdivision;

·          New 12" line on Riley Road between Highway 90 and Ocean Springs Road;

·          New 8" line on C.C.C. Camp Road between Ocean Springs Road and Riley Road;

·          New 8" line on Ocean Springs Road from C.C.C. Camp Road to Riley Road, which will allow for the continued development added in 1993; and

·          Areas served by 4" and smaller lines should be upgraded to a minimum 6" pipe.  This should be accomplished over a five to ten year period as growth and economics dictate.

 

·          Fire Flow: Other minor improvements are recommended to increase fire flows throughout the City.

 

Wastewater System

Ocean Springs does not provide wastewater treatment service, but contracts with the Gulf Coast Wastewater Authority (“Authority”) for that service, which is the regional sanitary sewer service provider in the planning area.  The City’s wastewater collection system is comprised of a network of lateral, collector and trunk lines and pumping stations sending effluent to a treatment plant operated by the Authority.  Sewers are generally shallow and above the groundwater table.  Neither infiltration nor exhilaration currently pose problems.  Constraints within the existing wastewater system are due to system design (e.g., invert elevation, line slope and capacity of the existing trunk system), bayous, creeks and floodplains.  Within the next two years, approximately 95% of the City will be served by public sewer.

 

The system currently has available capacity, with the Authority planning to install system improvements to increase treatment capacity.  New growth should ensure that the capacity and timing of proposed wastewater system improvements is consistent with planned growth.  The wastewater system capital improvements plan should be updated upon completion of the Comprehensive Plan, and regularly updated thereafter to reflect actual growth.

 


At least once a year, heavy rainfalls overload the City's wastewater collection system, requiring that water from the sanitary sewer system be pumped to the stormwater system.  The diversion of water is expensive and may have potentially harmful effects on the environment.  Because wastewater treatment plants cannot be expanded in small, inexpensive increments, it is important to anticipate expansion needs well in advance.  Potential development must ensure that the capacity and timing of proposed wastewater system improvements is consistent with planned growth.  The wastewater system improvement capital improvements plan should be updated upon completion of the Comprehensive Plan, and regularly updated thereafter to reflect actual growth trends.  One of the most significant planning concerns the City is likely to encounter is constructing and maintaining adequate lift/pump stations at key locations throughout the City and ensuring that adequate sewers and trunk lines are available.  The City is preparing to maintain and improve its role in the system, and is currently undertaking growth impact study to analyze system needs.

 

Stormwater Management[2]

Ocean Springs has a stormwater management program that addresses water quality and flood control issues related to stormwater runoff, working to implement the best management practices, regulate the program, and improve the program whenever possible.  Currently, all existing development is adequately served and there are no significant stormwater drainage deficiencies within the City.  Though there may be some ponding, water drains rapidly to the creeks and bayous after rains, unless there is a heavy downpour (2" to 3" of rainfall within a 2 to 3 hour period) or unusual flood event.

 

During periods of heavy rain there is some flooding adjacent to the downtown area, but a project is underway to improve drainage in those areas, which should be completed within one year.  Some flooding also occurs in the eastern edge of the City.  However, another significant drainage project proposed by the City is for the east side of town, adjacent to the proposed Recreation Complex, which should provide significant development opportunities for the entire northeast planning area.

 

Because the area has little topographical relief, development assumptions are necessary to direct flow in an orderly manner.  The City has made significant strides to ensure that development regulations protect residents and property – the stormwater ordinance requires that there be no drainage impact onto existing development by new development and that new development remedy drainage on-site; the subdivision regulations require drainage for a 25-year storm event (the County only requires plans for a 10-year storm event).

 

 

Law Enforcement


The perception or reality of a lack of safety in a community or neighborhood can deter private community investment.  Safety can include personal security as well as the structural and fire-rated safety of buildings.  The Ocean Springs Police Department (“OSPD”) provides service within the City 24 hours per day and beyond municipal boundaries pursuant to mutual aid agreements with the County and surrounding cities.  On average, the OSPD responds to about one to two extra-territorial calls per month.  The OSPD also participates in inter-jurisdictional law enforcement programs, including a narcotics task force, the FBI “Safe Streets” task force and the “Blue Lightening” program with U.S. Customs.

 

The Police Department provides emergency communications, administrative functions (information management), public services (crime prevention, volunteers), support services (special programs, training), victim services, property & evidence, investigations, patrol functions and a special response team.

 

The Police Department is staffed by approximately 39 full-time sworn police officers, 18 to 20 part-time, certified volunteer officers, six dispatchers, four records clerks, two court clerks one animal control officer and one housekeeper.  The OSPD has 21 regular patrol vehicles, five reserve patrol vehicles, three administrative and seven investigative vehicles, two motorcycles, three trucks and a command post bus.  Currently the OSPD is in the process of moving from two police officers per patrol vehicle to one officer per vehicle.

 

The OSPD has a central facility adjacent to City Hall and a substation on Deana Road used primarily as an unmanned facility for the convenience of the traffic and patrol divisions.  The central facility houses police functions (administration, investigation, training, etc), the Municipal Court, an emergency operations center (e.g., for weather or rail accidents), an emergency management center (e.g., for police or national guard) and as a temporary detention holding facility (with a capacity of twelve prisoners, for sentences ranging from three to nine months).

 

The communications system is severely constrained.  The OSPD receives calls for service from calls routed through Jackson County 911.  The OSPD is responsible for all emergency dispatches, by contacting and sending the appropriate responding entity (police, fire, AMR, etc.).  The 10-year old computer-aided dispatch (“CAD”) has technical limitations directly related to the provision of public safety service, including no patrol car tracking, no prisoner tracking, only one clerk can enter data into the system at a time (though two  dispatchers are on duty at all times) and it is a stand-alone design, meaning that it is not able to share or exchange information with other public safety computer systems.  Improvements to the Jackson County communication system are proposed to include tower upgrades and a new dispatch center, but Ocean Springs (as is the case for all other cities in the County) will be solely responsible for providing mobile units to interact with the proposed County communication system.

 

The OSPD level of service is based on an achieved response time of three to five minutes, depending upon the type of emergency, time of day and number of other calls for service at the time.  The medical emergency response appears very good at this time and will be most likely adequate for expected future demands.

 


Calls for service (“CFS”) have been consistent for the past few years, though computerized recording has only been available since 1999.  For 2000 (the latest time period for which information is available), the OSPD responded to 40,533 calls for service, for all emergency and non-emergency service, of which 15,727 (40%) were residential and were  24,302 (60%) were non-residential.  In 1998, there were 40,209 CFS; in 1997, there were 38,823 CFS; in 1997, there were 36,665 CFS.

 

The OSPD provides adequate police protection for the community, subject to the following growth-related and operational issues:

 

·          The OSPD does not have a boat and is unable to provide service or assist with an water-related emergencies.

 

·          If development patterns continue to expand to the northeast and southeast, additional facility space and police officers will be needed, as would additional patrol vehicles and equipment to staff the facility.  Land has been purchased by the City adjacent to the Civic Center site for potential use by the City’s Police and Fire Departments, though no formal plans have been formulated or adopted.

 

·          Utilization of the central facility is maximized and is operating at and over capacity.  There is numerous office/room sharing, based on limited space and available space; parking constraints are significant, especially during periods when the Municipal Court is in session.

 

·          Increased City populations during the tourist season and for festivals and other special events stretch available police resources.  For example, during the course of the two-day Peter Anderson festival, the City receives an additional 80,000 visitors.

 

·          Department record keeping needs additional resources, including staffing and space.

 

·          State detention facility regulations and standards require a separate, dedicated jailer.  Currently, that function is handled by available police officers.

 

·          Construction of the proposed Recreation Complex has the potential to require a relatively significant police/security presence.

 

·          Upgrading the CAD is a priority for the OSPD, improving communication with other public safety providers, with OSPD officers in the field and gaining computer access to the City network.

 


·          A secure, larger cental facility is needed –  to provide a juvenile holding facility (currently, juveniles are held in office space), to provide space for a full-time jailer, for shift changes and updates, for training (which currently occurs in the Courtroom when not in session) and for record-keeping.  The new facility also should be hurricane-proof and provide adequate parking.

 

Fire Protection/EMS

The Ocean Springs Fire Department ("OSFD") provides service to the City and operates primarily within municipal boundaries, but sometimes provides extra-territorial service in unincorporated Jackson County if requested and pursuant to a mutual aid agreement.   On average, about one to three calls per year are extra-territorial.  Emergency medical services are provided by Acadian Ambulance, a private company contracted by Jackson County.  The OSFD provides administration, record-keeping and training services; fire suppression services; fire prevention; and enforces fire safety codes.  The OSFD also responds to EMS calls for assistance when requested by Acadian.

 

The OSFD employs approximately 30 full-time firefighters, a Fire Chief and Assistant Fire Chief, though maintaining adequate staffing is becoming more challenging.  The OSFD has three fire pumpers, one reserve pumper, two special purpose trucks and a van.  They are maintained at the three fire stations located within the City.

 

·          The James A. Murray Station (also referred to as the Central Station) is centrally-located, on Bienville Boulevard (Highway 90);

 

·          The Beaugez Station, which also is centrally-located but south of the railroad tracks, on Government Street; and

 

·          The Champ Gay Station, located on the central-east side of town, on Deana Road.

 

Fire departments undergo periodic reviews by the Insurance Services Office ("ISO") to determine the adequacy of the community's fire protection services and to establish the local insurance risk factor.  During the course of the Department's last review, the City received a rating of “6".  This rating is based on a combination of water flow, water pressure, an adequate number of available and trained firefighters and an adequate amount of equipment, based on national standards for similarly sized communities.  Typically improving a community’s rating to "5" would yield a 5% [real property] insurance premium savings; an increase to "4" would yield an 11% savings.  The City’s rating could be improved by water system improvements (primarily in the eastern and southern areas of the City) and increasing firefighter staffing levels.

 

The OSFD is “on the bubble” regarding the need for an aerial (i.e.,  ladder) truck, capable of providing access to structures in excess of three stories.  Need, according to state and national guidelines, is based on having at least five three-story or taller structures or “big box” commercial developments within the service area.  A significant amount of new commercial development may be sufficient to require a ladder vehicle to maintain the City’s ISO rating.  However, most areas within the City have a 35-foot building height restriction.


Communications have been problematic.  Currently, fire calls are routed through the Ocean Springs Police Department, which receives the calls from Jackson County 911.  Individual fire units are able to communicate using handheld portables.   Because the OSFD relies on the emergency communication network shared by the Ocean Springs Police Department and Jackson County 911, improvements will require significant inter-agency and inter-jurisdictional negotiation and agreement.