HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg city leaders could decide to keep a business on Bay Street closed for good, or give the owners the opportunity to re-open with a vote Tuesday night.
The property owner, neighborhood leaders and residents had the chance to voice their opinion about the site and it's impact on the community during a public hearing Monday night.
Corey Arrington, the representative for the old gas station at 314 Bay Street, wants the site to be rezoned from R-1B, of Single Family Residential, to B-2, which is Neighborhood Business.
"We're fighting to try to get this area rezoned to commercial," said Arrington. "We have been fighting for the last three and a half years, trying to get a property that we purchased to open the same as it was, there's no change in the neighborhood. It's the same as my whole life."
The process for rezoning started in July of 2014 for Arrington. He previously filed a petition to change the zoning, but it was denied by the Hattiesburg Planning Commission in August.
City officials said the zoning was changed to residential in 1989, something Arrington told council members he was told, multiple times, was a clerical error.
Arrington said the gas station was operating from 1967 to 2013. According to code, since the business closed in 2013, and was closed for over six months, it cannot re-open in a now residential zone.
"We're not trying to change something or add something new in this community, that was never our intention," Arrington said. "We were just trying to get that business that was open, has been open, it's a part of that historic area."
Tara Poole, with the Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood Association, told council members re-opening the store would not add anything to the area, which has become "more residential" since the station was closed.
"There are five other convenience stores, a full service grocery store and several restaurants in the downtown business district already serving the fuel and nutritional needs in our area," Poole said.
A number of neighbors also took their opportunity to talk to council members about concerns if the gas station was to re-open.
"During that time the store was open, it seemed the primary sales of that store were to individuals purchasing beer," said one woman who lives on River Avenue.
"It was constantly a litter problem," said Robin Roberts, who lives on Bay Street. "It was a noise problem, it was a security problem."
Others voiced opinions on the taxes paid at the property, which one person said Arrington has not paid in three years.
A second public hearing was held on Monday night in council chambers on changing the classification of the "Future Land Use" for the area where the gas station is located.
The amendment to the City's Comprehensive Plan 2008-2028 was also filed by Poole. It proposes to change the designated "Future Land Use" of Bay Street from the intersection of Hall Avenue to Gordon's Creek from "Neighborhood Business" to "Neighborhood Conservation District 1."
The Planning Commission recommended to approve the change in August.
Arrington said he feels like his plans are being targeted and the change in zoning of the "Future Land Use" is in response to his attempted to re-open his business.
"Basically, this was done purposely to stop us from rezoning our property back to commercial," said Arrington.
Mayor Toby Barker asked Ginger Maddox, with the Planning Division, if the change in the "Future Land Use" would keep any business from opening in that area of Bay Street. Maddox said the change would not eliminate any business, but could make the process a little more difficult.
Hattiesburg City Council will vote on both rezoning matters on the regular meeting on Tuesday at 5 p.m.