Joyce

Land is still king for our community

Published 12:05am Sunday, September 1, 2013

The old advice to “buy land” because they aren’t making it anymore is sage advice.

Land use matters.

It’s important.

If you don’t think land use is important, ask yourself this — how would you feel if your neighbor decided to follow his dream of being a chicken farmer and erected chicken coops from one inch of his property to another?

A few of you, those with damaged sniffers, may not mind, but most of us would be less than thrilled at the idea.

That, of course, is a personal reaction — land use that affects me.

Unless you’re the person affected or you are the affect-or, most of these spats go unnoticed. Occasionally, one person drags the other to court and raises a little attention.

Most of the big battles over land use come from commercial and industrial uses.

New construction is popping up in front of Stine Lumber — a new dentist’s office.

One has to think the good folks of Stine wish they owned all of the land in front of them to avoid feeling like they’re being blocked from view by developing businesses. Perhaps they don’t mind, though.

Public land use is where people’s ire really gets raised.

Remember, a few years ago, the stink over the proposed condos on the Natchez bluffs? How dare the city, some opponents thought at the time, sell public land for a commercial, for-profit endeavor. A few years later and the land is back in public hands, which is probably best. The bluff seems to be a place that probably needs to remain public for its life.

Like many Natchez residents with whom I’ve spoken, the plans to renovate the former train depot on the bluff along Broadway Street are welcomed. We’ve all spent far too many years walking past the city-owned building, watching it slowly crumble away. The renovation is long overdue.

I wish I could say I was as jazzed about the public demonstration gardens the city plans to construct adjacent to the depot. Gardens are great, but they tend to be not-so-pretty for long periods of the year. Maybe I’ll be surprised.

Perhaps the biggest land-use challenge ahead for our community is at the former International Paper site. For half a century, the mill fueled a large part of our community’s economy. Now shuttered, the mill is a shell of what it was originally, but the land — recently obtained by the county — holds a potential gold mine for economic growth.

With more than 450 acres, the site is perhaps the largest remaining, developable site with easy access to the Natchez-Adams County Port.

County leaders stepped up and borrowed the money to buy the land, despite having a good idea of how best to use it.

The challenge for county supervisors will be to figure out how best to use the land.

Several potential suitors are lining up for a piece of the property. The question is: Should the county go for easy money and split up the large tract into smaller ones?

If it opts to split the land, putting it back together could be darned near impossible.

But then again, equally as impossible may be for politicians to look beyond the now and see the potential of something further down the road than the next election.

None of the supervisors want to find themselves defending a more than $9 million land transaction that may have no jobs tied to it come election time.

But if supervisors choose to sell the property in pieces, hopefully, they’ll consider first the number of jobs the property once brought to the community. What was it before IP closed, something like two to four per acre?

Replacing them at that level would be good land use.

 

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.