|By Bobby Harrison, Northeast Mississippi
Daily Journal, Tupelo, Miss.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 21, 2009-JACKSON -- The final passage of legislation allowing liquor and beer to be sold at Bay Springs Lake isn't the last hurdle to clear before construction can begin on a $300 million-plus tourism development in Tishomingo County.
Gov. Haley Barbour has signed into law the legislation designating the Bay Springs Lake area as a resort so that liquor can be served there, even though Tishomingo County is dry.
Dan Turner, a spokesman for Barbour, said the governor signed the bill because of the positive economic development impact it could have for Tishomingo County.
Monday was the deadline for the governor to sign the legislation. In reality he signed it late Friday, though it was not reflected as being signed on the Legislature's Web page until Monday.
The bill signing "is one more step in the process," said Richard Bowen, an Iuka attorney who has done work for the group developing the Bay Springs project.
The next step, Bowen said, is to obtain a lease agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the Bay Springs Lake property near Belmont.
Bowen said a master plan had been submitted to the Corps, but he did not know how long it would take for the agency to act on that plan.
The plan calls for Sarasota, Fla.,-based Martel Resorts to construct a resort that Bowen said would cost at least $300 million. After the Corps grants approval, Bowen said one of the next steps would be a time-consuming tree removal project.
The resort is supposed to include a hotel, restaurants, three golf courses, 900 cabins, boat slips, a chapel and other amenities. The development will create 400 permanent jobs and 1,200 construction jobs, officials have said.
"This will be a significant development for the entire state of Mississippi," Tishomingo Board of Supervisors President Brandon Grissom of Iuka said as the bill made its way through the legislative process.
He said the area will be heavily patrolled by law enforcement. And liquor and beer will be sold only by the drink, and only in restaurants.
The proposal did not have unanimous support. Normally, liquor can be sold in a county only after it is approved by a countywide referendum. But giving the area resort status bypasses that process. That upset some Tishomingo County residents.
The Rev. Doug Christy of Iuka, chairman of the Christian Action Committee of the Tishomingo County Baptist Association, said the legislative action might have consequences.
"They took our referendum away, but they can't take away our election day," Christy said earlier. "That may play out a little differently."
The bill also allows the cities of Pearl and Flowood in Rankin County and the city of Picayune in Pearl River County to vote on whether liquor can be sold at restaurants by the drink in those municipalities even though their counties are dry.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Copyright (c) 2009, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo, Miss.
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