Zoning changed again

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 12, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; This article isn&8217;t a reprint: Aldermen once again addressed rezoning, north Natchez drainage and housing problems, among other ongoing issues, in their Tuesday meeting.

Aldermen first voted to extend B-3 business zoning from its current end at Wall Street all the way to Broadway Street.

The addition of businesses such as Bowie&8217;s Tavern and Prudential Stedman and Associates to that area &8220;has shown the area has changed&8221; enough to justify the zoning change.

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As it was originally proposed that change would have, among other things, allowed buildings up to 95 feet tall all the way to Broadway Street.

But City Attorney Walter Brown said because developer Thomas Bauer&8217;s plans for a hotel across Canal Street from the convention center include only four stories, the change won&8217;t be needed.

So while the zoning will be changed, alderman voted to keep the height limit at the current 75 feet.

And aldermen voted against raising the maximum height of buildings in the waterfront district to 75 feet.

Aldermen first suggested the height change after developers Ed Worley and Larry L. Brown Jr. proposed a $19 million condo development to be located on the river bluff.

But a design meeting held in November yielded a condo design that was within the current height limits, making the change unnecessary.

Rather than let the issue go entirely, however, aldermen remanded it to the Planning Commission.

The board heard a report on the north Natchez drainage project by City Engineer and Waterworks Superintendent David Gardner.

Gardner and city Grants Coordinator Brett Brinegar lobbied federal officials last week for $6 million to improve the canal and adjacent ditches that drain most of north and downtown Natchez.

Gardner said a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official who was in town Tuesday told him the city should go ahead and start construction of the project as soon as engineering work is complete.

&8220;He said to do that and the city would get reimbursed 75 percent for the work, which is our cost share anyway,&8221; Gardner said.

The city is about 40 percent finished with engineering work for the project.

&8220;He also said we&8217;re in the pot for funding since we already have an agreement signed with the Corps&8221; for the project, although funding hasn&8217;t yet been appropriated, Gardner said.

They heard a briefing by Recreation Director Ralph Tedder on three full pages&8217; worth of improvements and repairs that being made or are planned for later this fiscal year.

Tedder said he will compile for aldermen figures on the total cost of the projects. He also reminded the board that tax and golf revenue figures are up and that aldermen, in forming the fiscal 2007 budget, figured in a $40,000 interfund loan.

&8220;Y&8217;all will have to figure out where that loan is going to come from,&8221; Tedder told the board.

Arceneaux-Mathis requested that Tedder let the board know when those projects were about to exceed his department&8217;s budget.

The board also decided to ask Natchez Housing Authority Executive Director Alan Ingram to meet with the board regarding the need for more affordable housing units in the area.

Arceneaux-Mathis said she also wants to hear more from Ingram about how rules the Department of Housing and Urban Development is handing down regarding authority finances could affect public housing.

She also directed City Planner Andrew Smith to ask representatives of the Memphis Housing Authority to come to Natchez to discuss some of that authority&8217;s innovative housing solutions.

Alderman Theodore &8220;Bubber&8221; West recommended a hearing be held in the future regarding affordable housing in Adams County.

And Arceneaux-Mathis said she still wants information on the pros and cons of placing quasi-independent agencies such as the Natchez Housing Authority and Natchez Waterworks directly under the authority of City Hall.

Housing Authority and Natchez Waterworks directly under the authority of City Hall.

Also during Tuesday&8217;s meeting, aldermen:

4Were told by Tourism Director Walter Tipton that representatives of Canada-based Lord Consulting will be in town next week.

Bauer has paid $10,000 for the group to come to Natchez to meet with local leaders to discuss what new cultural attractions could be developed in Natchez. Those meetings will be held from 9 a.m. to noon April 20.

Once a cultural attraction has been decided on, Lord Consulting would also help locate funds for further study and for construction.

4Approved a two-month lease with the Boys & Girls Club for the old Martin School gym at $500 a month. That was done with the understanding a longer-term lease will be negotiated and that other groups will be allowed to use the gym.

4Recognized Bad Boys Enterprises, a maker of off-road vehicles for hunters, as the city&8217;s Business of the Month.

4Tabled until April 25 action on bids to remove asbestos from the two buildings remaining on a city-owned lot across Canal Street from the convention center.

That&8217;s the planned site of Bauer&8217;s hotel.

4Voted to install speed bumps on Concord Avenue.

In addition, Mayor West said the board has so much business on its plate it may do well to consider meeting at least one more time a month, if not every week.

As it now stands, the board meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month.