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Officials, residents will help rework city codes

NATCHEZ — City of Natchez officials, local leaders and even residents will be asked to work with a former city planner who will start reworking city building codes and zoning ordinances in January.

The city hired the Walker Collaborative firm, owned by former city planner Phil Walker, based in Nashville, Tenn., to update the codes and ordinances.

City Planner Frankie Legaux said Walker will work with a steering committee comprised of city officials, business people, developers, designers, builders, preservationists and others to amend the code.

Legaux, who was hired by the city in September, said the city will also have town-hall style meetings to get input from the public on what parts of the code residents would like to see amended.

Many people, Legaux said, have voiced frustration with the lengthy process of development approval in the city.

“We are looking at that and seeing if there is anything we can do to streamline that development process,” she said.

This will not be the first time Legaux has helped amend a code to expedite development approval.

Legaux previously worked as director of development services for Rockingham County, N.C., and helped amend the the county’s ordinances to make them more understandable and shortened the approval process for developers in Rockingham County.

In addition to Legaux’s experience with amending codes, Mayor Butch Brown said he felt the city needed a consultant with vast experience with Natchez’s codes and ordinances.

“(Walker) has all the pedigree that a person needs to bring our ordinance package to a level that is good for the City of Natchez,” he said.

The current code, Brown said, is not tailored to meet the needs of Natchez.

“It is the same sort of code that would apply to a big city, and it needs to be amended to make it more user and business friendly for the residents of a city like Natchez,” he said.

Legaux said the code amendment process will begin in January, and she said she hopes to have it completed in six to eight months.

The contract with Walker’s firm will be paid for by a $30,000 economic development initiative grant.