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Natchez city code to be redone by consultant

NATCHEZ — The consultant hired by the City of Natchez to revamp the city code will be asking Natchezians of all walks of life this week for their input.

Former city planner Phil Walker of the Walker Collaborative, a consulting firm in Nashville, Tenn., will sit down with a steering committee made up of city officials, private businesspeople, tradesmen, historic preservationists and others to discuss plans to redevelop the city code.

The code includes provisions outlining guidelines for building codes, new construction, signage and the various zoned districts in the city, among other things.

The committee will also review drafts of the code as the process moves along, Walker said.

Mayor Butch Brown said having input from all different kinds of people will ensure the city code will fit the needs of the community.

“The ultimate goal is to have a broad enough cross section of input to make sure we have a very good code, one that is amended to fit the needs of our community versus a one-size-fits-all code,” he said.

The goals of the redeveloping code, Brown said, are to make the code more user-friendly for developers, builders, designers, property owners and others, as well as create a more streamlined project approval process and get rid of conflicting requirements in various parts of the code.

A presentation of the project for the public will be at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall. The public, Walker said, is also encouraged to give feedback on the project at the meeting.

Walker said he and another consultant will spend some time this week familiarizing themselves with the community. With previous experience as Natchez’s city planner, Walker said he thinks he has a good grounding of the city.

“I think that will give me a leg up,” he said.

A city code rewrite is fairly common, Walker said, but he said Natchez’s code will not be completely rewritten.

“What we’re going to do isn’t going to be a completely new code; we’re going to work with the existing code,” he said.

An initial problem Walker said he sees with the code is repetitive language in various parts of the code that could be condensed into one section. The code’s 45-page glossary would also be better in the back of the book, Walker said, instead of the front as it is currently.

The goal of Walker’s trip this week, he said, is to listen to the perspectives of the different stakeholders in code redevelopment and ensure everyone understands the importance of having a good city code.

“I want to let them know why these codes matter and what they mean to quality of life, the local economy and other areas,” Walker said. “And we want to hear what people think, developers, designers, preservationists, people who might have to use the code.”

Walker said after the meetings this week he will write a report that looks at the major sections of the code and what areas could be improved. That report will be presented to the steering committee, he said.

Walker will make three trips to Natchez over the six-month period for the project.

During his next trip, Walker will present his findings, and the committee will work on a new table of contents for the code.

“I’m excited to get started, and I look forward to being back in Natchez,” he said.