Zoning board denies church’s request

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 6, 2001

Members of Jefferson Street Methodist Church vowed Thursday to appeal a Natchez Zoning Board decision denying a variance for construction of a new $3.5 million addition to the church.

Church members requested a variance to allow a portion of a planned family life center and gymnasium to encroach six feet into the 10-foot setback required.

Several residents of High and Commerce streets, whose property lines run adjacent to the church, expressed concerns the building will inhibit use of their own property. With only three of the five zoning board members present, the vote was 2-1 to approve the variance. However, zoning board rules specify that three members must vote for an issue for it to pass. Since only two did so, the measure failed.

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&uot;I cannot ignore the fact that (property owners) have the right to enjoy their property,&uot; said Mattie Jo Ratcliffe, who voted against the measure. &uot;And this will decimate their property.&uot;

Church members have 15 days to appeal the case before the Natchez Board of Aldermen.

&uot;We’ll definitely appeal it,&uot; said Tom Middleton, chairman of Jefferson Street’s building committee. &uot;I’m really disappointed.&uot;

Middleton said the problems with the variances had become &uot;a nightmare.&uot;

&uot;We’ve had this project submitted for four months,&uot; Middleton said. &uot;We’ve come before four meetings of the preservation commission and each time we asked if there was a problem. And each time that answer was ‘no.’&uot;

Thursday’s decision was the last of several variances the church requested on the project.

The latest issue apparently emerged when members of the Natchez City Planning staff discovered the original plans submitted for approval didn’t detail all of the property lines.

&uot;On all of the drawings that were submitted to the planning department, none ever included other property lines,&uot; said Natchez City Planner David.