Residents Wonder How Miss. Coast Will Redevelop
After Hurricane Katrina, all along the Gulf Coast came the questions: Can I rebuild? What's going to happen to my town? And -- especially on the coast of Mississippi -- where thousands of splintered homes were flushed into fields of debris - could there be another big storm?
In the beachside cities of Waveland and Bay St. Louis, residents are wondering what their communities will look like once they are rebuilt.
In Bay St. Louis, John Cranmer and his son Nathan live in two FEMA trailers sitting on the lot of the house they once shared before Katrina's waters ripped it apart. Both men are professional welders and they're planning to build a new house. One that's elevated and stronger -- "some sort of steel structure maybe on a frame or something off the ground," John Cranmer says.
A brick house next door that wasn't knocked down by Katrina has been bought for $150,000, rumor has it. Figures like that have locals fearing that prices will go up -- and that high-rise condos will tower over their once-quaint community.
Until Katrina's landfall, Lori Gordon had a home and artist's studio two blocks from the beach in Bay St. Louis. She remembers a small community where she was at ease riding her bike to the beach in the middle of the night. Now, she says, it may be too expensive to rebuild on her home site. She and her husband might have to move off the coast -- even 20 or 30 miles north.
She fears that Katrina may have washed away the last impediments to a condo and casino development. The project was already approved by Hancock County, and she and several other residents have filed suit to stop it.
In neighboring Waveland, about 1,000 of the city's 7,000 residents have returned since Katrina. Todd Holland and Sheila Plant, who lived on adjacent streets, are calculating the wisdom of coming back.
Holland wants the neighborhood to be as it was -- small homes, widely spaced lots of trees, within walking distance to the beach. But he would like to see plans for more substantial housing, including apartments and condos, with retail space and restaurants.
"I don't think the one-homeowner-at-a-time solution is going to be economically viable," Holland says.
Plant also longs for the small-town feel that once defined Waveland. "Even if you said 'No condos,' I'm not sure you're gonna get all those neighborhoods back" -- especially with new regulations calling for new homes close to the beach to be up on stilts. "What older-generation retired couple is going to climb up three flights of stairs to get to their front door?" Plant says.
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