Commission tables Forks housing application
NATCHEZ — After hearing arguments for and against housing proposed for a portion of a historic slave market site, the Natchez Planning Commission voted to table the application.
The commission had to table the application because it and two other applications were not properly advertised in The Natchez Democrat.
David Kelly represented Chartre Consulting of Oxford at the meeting.
The application is to rezone a parcel of land to allow seven or nine single-family houses with a single, semi-circular driveway that would exit onto D’Evereux Drive.
City Planner Frankie Legaux said since D’Evereux is a state road, the Mississippi Department of Transportation would have to make the decision of whether to allow the driveway to exit on the road. MDOT has not yet made a decision.
The houses would be located on what is the second phase of Chartre’s Old Bridge Place, formerly Stonehurst Arms, townhouse development.
The houses would cost approximately $150,000 to $160,000 to build and would be available to low-income families that meet certain qualifications. The rent for the houses would be approximately $525 per month, Kelly said.
The development is located on the site of the antebellum R.H. Elam slave market, known as the Forks of the Road, which was the second-largest slave market in the South before the Civil War.
Kelly said Chartre has been working with the city at Mayor Butch Brown’s request to develop 100 scattered-site housing units in the Martin Luther King Jr. Street area. Because of a lack of available lots, Chartre has proposed to put seven to nine houses on what would be the second phase of Old Bridge Place, Kelly said.
Friends of the Forks of the Road Coordinator Ser Seshsh ab Heter-C.M. Boxley wore shackles as he addressed the planning commission in protest of the development.
Boxley publicly has protested Chartre’s construction near the Forks site.
Boxley asked the commission to join the other policy makers of the City of Natchez — namely the Natchez Preservation Commission and the Board of Aldermen — in a meaningful discussion about what can be done to preserve the Forks.
“If you obliterate that site … there’s no other place in the country that speaks to that human history,” he said, shaking his shackles at the commission.
Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent Kathleen Jenkins told the commission that the Forks of the Road site is the only place in Natchez that has received international recognition by the United Nations because of its role in the international slave trade.
The National Park Service has completed a multi-year study to determine that the Forks of the Road site should ultimately be a part of the Natchez National Historical Park, Jenkins said, but the NPS is waiting for Congress to create the legislation that will declare the Forks a part of the park.
Jenkins said ideally no construction would be allowed at the site that might damage the site.
“Do I want to see any development on the site? No,” she said. “But I want to be realistic.
“I would love if the city would use the power of eminent domain and pay (the private landowners) fair market price (to purchase the Forks site), but I don’t have the power to make that happen.”
The commission will take up the application at its Oct. 17 meeting.
In other news from the meeting:
• The commission approved rezoning a parcel of land behind Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center to B-2 business. The rezoning does not include the center.
Several B-2 businesses were designated as special exceptions with the rezoning, including a car wash and a medical clinic.
Permitted uses for the rezoned land might include establishments such as an antiques shop or an art gallery.
Attorney Jeremy Diamond represented the Worley Family Trust, which is purchasing the land from the city, at the meeting. Diamond said the Worley family currently does not have plans to develop the land, which abuts Dunleith. The Worleys also own Dunleith.
A neighboring resident who opposed the rezoning said he had heard the land would be used for a driveway. The resident was concerned about the amount of traffic that would create.
Planning commissioners assured the resident any development to the property would have to be adequately screened from his property.
• The commission approved a site plan application from Justin Adcock of Alliance South for a retirement community at the end of Hunter’s Lane.