Complex gets the go-ahead

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 5, 2001

Natchez aldermen on Tuesday voted to rezone a parcel of land off the eastern end of St. Catherine Street, putting Trustmark Construction one step closer to building a 40-unit rent-to-purchase townhouse complex.

The 3-2 vote went against the Natchez Planning Commission, which on Monday rejected the 8-acre site as inappropriate for multi-family dwellings.

Speaking for the commission, City Planner David Preziosi told aldermen the presence of two communications towers on the property and the high density housing developments already in the area are among reasons for the commission’s denial of the rezoning from a commercial to a residential area.

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The Planning Commission sent out 53 letters to residents of the area to inform them of the rezoning request. Only three replied, Preziosi said.

Aldermen David Massey and Jake Middleton voted in favor of the rezoning; Alderman James &uot;Ricky&uot; Gray and Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux voted against the rezoning. Breaking the tie as mayor pro tem, Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West voted for the rezoning.

Alderwoman Sue Stedman, a realtor, and Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith, whose wife is a realtor, recused themselves from the vote.

The eight acres are a portion of a parcel located along but not bordering St. Catherine Street on the south and on the north by a bayou behind a row of Lumber Street houses.

The east side is bordered by South Concord Avenue, again with no frontage, and on the west side by Rembert Street, with no frontage on the Rembert side.

West, who represents Ward 4, where the property is located, had several concerns – how many people would be employed in construction of the multi-million-dollar project, whether the complex would include a recreation area and whether complex managers would be able to separate long-term residents from short-term.

Christopher Knott, representing Alabama-based Trustmark and Jackson-based Chartre Consulting Ltd., said carpenters, framers, roofers, plumbers, electricians and all other kinds of tradesmen working in construction would be employed.

&uot;There will be a recreation area and a clubhouse,&uot; he said.

All townhouses will sell in the $70,000 range and will be rent-to-own. &uot;In another area we may at some point build some apartments for rent, but these units will be only for sale,&uot; Knott said.

Gray, who spoke against the rezoning, had three concerns. &uot;That area has a senior citizens complex right across the railroad track. It’s so isolated and quiet over there,&uot; he said, adding that he hated to see the older residents subjected to more congestion.

Eugenia Perry, one of two property owners in the area who spoke against the complex, said she too feared a more congested St. Catherine Street. &uot;This is where I grew up. I don’t live there anymore but I own family property there, and I am concerned for the senior citizens in the area.&uot;

West said the townhouse project will be an asset to Natchez and to the people in his ward. &uot;If I had thought this would harm that area in any way, I wouldn’t have voted for it,&uot; he said. &uot;There are young people in this town who need housing, people who need jobs.&uot;

West turned to Knott and said, &uot;Chris, this has to be the most top-notch job you’ve ever done.&uot;

Massey said the area off St. Catherine is a good place for the complex, and city residents should applaud having someone coming into Natchez to put in a more than $3-million project.

The site approved for rezoning on Tuesday ends several months of searching for a site by Trustmark and is the last of more than a dozen places considered by the company.

Midsouth Housing Foundation is a nonprofit partner in the project. Knott said one of his biggest hurdles during negotiations in Natchez has been to convince people that the townhouse complex will not be a Section 8, low-income, subsidized project. &uot;These will be upscale apartments for working families,&uot; he said.

The zoning change goes into effect in 30 days. Within 10 days, it must be published as a legal notice in the newspaper.