Commission votes against apartments

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 5, 2001

The Natchez Metro Planning Commission voted Monday to recommend that Natchez aldermen not rezone a parcel of land on St. Catherine Street from general business to multi-family residential.

Chartre Consulting Ltd., of Jackson, submitted a request to rezone the eight-acre plot so the company could develop a 40-unit townhouse complex at the site, located at St. Catherine and O’Ferrall streets.

&uot;I’m not opposed to good housing, but when you’re talking about multi-family, you’re talking about projects,&uot; St. Catherine Street resident Donnell Newsome said in the sometimes heated meeting.

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&uot;They’re not projects, … not subsidized or Section 8 housing,&uot; said Christopher Knott of Trustmark Construction. He noted that City Planner David Preziosi visited a similar complex Friday in McComb.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen will vote on the rezoning request at 9 a.m. today in the council chambers on South Pearl Street.

The Planning Commission and Board of Aldermen have already turned down locations at West Stiers Lane and Old Washington Road.

In its motion, which was unanimously passed, the commission stated that:

4Commercial uses would be better suited for the site, which is located near two communications towers.

4A 40-unit townhouse complex proposed for the site would conflict with an recently passed ordinance setting minimum buffer zones around such towers.

4Once zoning is changed, the property could be used for anything allowed under R-3, or multi-family residential, zoning – from YMCAs to home-based businesses to homes for the aged.

4The area around the site already has enough high-density housing developments.

Assistant City Planner Gretchen Kuechler noted that planning studies show that about 8,000 new housing units are needed in Natchez.

And Knott said that such a complex would create jobs in construction and management, stimulating economic growth.

Area residents, however, voiced several concerns. Newsome said the complex might also cause problems for elderly residents across the street and that renters would not take as much as pride in the neighborhood as homeowners.

Knott pointed out that residents would have the option to buy their townhouses after living in them 15 years. &uot;Who in a low-income area is going to buy townhouses?&uot; Newsome said. &uot;If they could afford that, they would have already bought houses.&uot;

St. Catherine Street &uot;is one of the main entrances to our city. We want to keep it as beautiful as possible,&uot; said area resident Thelma Newsome.

&uot;You (commission members) say it should be beautiful – keep it beautiful,&uot; said resident Hermann Stenz.

&uot;Don’t judge (this development) until you see it,&uot;&160;Knott said.

The city’s planning staff noted that existing roads could handle traffic from the apartments, but Thelma Newsome said she was still concerned that the complex would create more traffic congestion.