Commission recommends plan approval

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 21, 1999

At least two groups went home pleased with the Natchez Metro Planning Commission’s actions Thursday night.

Ser Seshshab Heter C.M. Boxley asked the commission to &uot;make a statement&uot; by making the Forks of the Road slave market site a tourism anchor.

The planning commission recommended approval of the city’s comprehensive plan, with the added provision that the Forks of the Road be included as the fifth tourism anchor. In addition to including the Forks of the Road, the commission removed from the plan a proposal to extend Martin Luther King Jr. Street to John R. Junkin Drive. Several residents had turned out against the proposed extension.

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Commission member Karen Stubbs made the motion to add the Forks of the Road as a tourism anchor.

&uot;I don’t have any problem with making it an anchor site,&uot; she said. &uot;The only problem would be in getting the funds.&uot;

Those funds would be needed to further develop the site of one of the largest Southern slave markets, which now is designated only with a historic marker.

Boxley has said he would like to see an interpretation center at the site. The city would need to acquire private land in the area to build such a center.

Natchez resident Jim Kimbrell asked the commission what would happen to the land the city did not buy.

Some landowners have expressed concerns about the project, because they fear a national historic landmark designation would mean more restrictions on their property.

&uot;This would only be identifying (the Forks of the Road) in the plan as an anchor,&uot; said City Planner David Preziosi. Preziosi said he did not believe the site qualifies as a tourism anchor because there has not yet been any development.

The other anchors are the Natchez Visitor Reception Center, the downtown convention center, the Natchez National Historic Park and the Natchez Museum of Afro-American History and Culture.

After the meeting, Boxley said he was pleased to play a part in filling a need in the city for more African tourism.

&uot;The city needs to make an official statement about its intent and commitment to do something about the overall African question,&uot; he said.

While Boxley said &uot;Hooray Natchez!&uot; when the Forks was included in the plan, residents opposed to the Martin Luther King extension applauded when that proposal was left out.

Residents have complained that the extension would disturb the environment and add more traffic to an already busy Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

Proponents of the extension have said it would relieve some of the traffic problems on Homochitto and Canal streets and provide another access road to downtown.

&uot;I think it would be devaluing your houses,&uot; Stubbs said. &uot;And we don’t have a problem with traffic in Natchez … compared to what people deal with in Jackson and Baton Rouge.&uot;