Rules change for renting Mississippi beaches

Published 1:32 am Friday, January 30, 2009

The secretary of state’s office will allow seven Gulf Coast beach vendors to keep their space for five years. After that, the spots will go out for public bid.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says that’s the deal he’s reached with vendors along the Harrison County beach and local officials. Some vendors did not agree to the deal.

“It’s just something that you wake up out of a bad dream. Because what you’ve spent and built for years, it’s suddenly taken from you. It’s robbery,” Raleigh Carter told Biloxi television station WLOX.

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Carter owns two beach businesses in front of Edgewater Mall. He loves his sites and wants to stay there, but unless he is the highest bidder, he will soon have to pack up and move.

“We’re not out stealing from others, they shouldn’t be stealing from us. We’ve been there 28 years. We’ve got every penny we’ve ever owned out there,” said Carter.

Hosemann says the beach belongs to all the people of Mississippi and everyone should have fair access to the land. As secretary of state, Hosemann is caretaker for public lands.

Hosemann says while seven spots are protected for five years, another 25 will go out for bid. He hopes to have the bidding open before the start of this year’s tourism season.

The agreement will allow anyone to bid on lease space on the beach. However, the new fee will be 5 percent of sales.

“This will be a public bid. So anybody that wants to bid on the sites can,” said Hosemann.

Angel Middleton loves doing business on the beach but disagrees with the state’s plan. After seven years, she’s still the newest tenant on the beachfront.

“We worked all of our lives to have what we’ve got,” Middleton said.

Her business is near the Island View Casino in Gulfport and she’s afraid she may soon have to bid against the casino giant.

In the past, the Harrison County Board of Supervisors was in charge of operating and maintaining the beach. The county years ago passed an ordinance that says whoever owns a permit has the right of first refusal each year for the permit. Permits cost $800 per year.