The Warr Home
by Keith Burton GCN 1/31/09
With the Jan. 28 federal indictment on Katrina fraud filed against Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr and his wife Laura, the focus of attention is on the Warr home located on Scenic Drive just off the beach adjacent to the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport. The now stately home that looks out over the Mississippi Sound is not what it was just a few years ago.
Until recent renovations the home's appearance remained the same architecturally since its initial building and Warr's purchase from AFRH in 2003 to August 29, 2005. The indictment alleges Warr never moved his family into the home though he claims he did do some work on the house prior to the hurricane. But two years after Katrina, the home began a tremendous transformation.
Katrina left the structure gutted on the ground floor. The storm took out the lower floor's walls, which were later covered with plywood and beginning in 2007, restoration of the home began in earnest. The new construction markedly changed the architectural look of the home from its pre-Katrina appearance, most notable are the changes in the roofline and the huge columned facade that was not part of the original home's architecture. Also added is a large circular gravel driveway.
(GCN photo right: Warr home in April 2006)
There are several central issues in the indictment against the Warrs. They include whether or not the Warr home was both their primary residence and occupied by them at the time the hurricane hit on August 29, 2005. These occupancy requirements are cited in the rules for receiving a Homeowner Grant from the Mississippi Development Agency (MDA). A MDA Homeowner Grant provides up to $150,000 to help rebuild homes damaged or destroyed by Katrina's storm surge that were outside the federal flood zones that existed at the time of the hurricane. The Warrs did receive the full amount.
The federal investigation and indictment indicate that the Warrs did not live in the home, a requirement for the Homeowner Grant. Most people know that the Warrs lived in a relative's home in the Woodglen subdivision near Gulfport High School. Harrison County Tax Assessor Tal Flurry told GCN for an earlier story that Warr did not have Homestead Exemption on the property at the time of the hurricane. Homestead Exemption is not a requirement for an MDA grant. Also, another central issue is that of insurance fraud alleged in the indictment.
(GCN photo right: Warr home in March 2007)
According to records provided to GCN from the City of Gulfport and reported first in a GCN story last year, Warr received three building permits on the property at the time of GCN's request; two building permits and an electrical contractor permit. All were issued in 2007. City building officials told GCN at that time that all building permit records prior to the hurricane were destroyed. GCN had requested all building permits since 2003 on the property.
The Warr home at 1814 Beach Drive was previously owned by the Armed Forces Retirement Home. The AFRH had purchased the property from the previous landowners around 2001. Warr acquired the property, according to his own statements to the Sun Herald, in February 2003. Warr later, in January 2004, filed the deed for the property at the county courthouse.
A satellite photo of the Warr property shows the home and surrounding property from above. The satellite photo was taken on August 30, 2005, only a day after the hurricane.
The photo shows very little actual debris immediately near the home, but the distance does not provide enough clarity to identify the nature of the debris that can be seen.
The photo below shows the proximity to the AFRH property near the Warr home. A link on the photo will greatly enlarge the image (GCN cautions viewers that the linked image is a VERY Large file and could lockup some computers).
At the time of this photo most Coast residents could not travel to their homes to check on their condition. Katrina's storm surge flooded the area to the railroad tracks seen toward the right side of the photo.
The home was not restored at a higher elevation.
The Warrs moved into their home late last year.
In the photo left, you see the home as it
appears from the front on August 31, 2005 before the first floor was
covered with plywood.
Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr has a Homeowner Grant - GCN 1/04/08
Building Permit Fees of Mayor Brent Warr - GCN 1/26/08
Federal Warr Indictment - .pdf file