Roth Hill land leased to Lane Co.

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, December 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; In what Mayor Phillip West called &8220;a difficult decision,&8221; the board of aldermen voted Monday to lease the land under Roth Hill to Lane Company.

The company&8217;s proposal was one of two the board reviewed in recent weeks, both of which proposed a riverfront development including a casino.

After an executive session, the board voted 4 to 1 to accept Lane Company&8217;s proposal, with Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis voting no and Alderman James &8220;Ricky&8221; Gray abstaining.

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Before the board voted to accept Lane, Mathis, public properties chairwoman, made a motion they accept Natchez Riverfront Development Group&8217;s proposal, which included an amphitheatre, shops and a river walk.

&8220;This is a comprehensive riverfront development plan that will help grow Natchez as a city,&8221; Mathis said. &8220;We&8217;re talking about a long-term proposition.&8221;

When she motioned the board accept Riverfront Development, the motion failed 4 to 2, with Mathis and Gray voting in favor.

&8220;Both groups are quality groups,&8221; West said after Lane Company&8217;s proposal was approved. &8220;This has been a real difficult decision for the board and voting for one is not necessarily implying the other is not a topnotch group.&8221;

Alderman Bob Pollard, who made the motion to vote for Lane Company, said he was very pleased with the outcome.

&8220;I am proud to be part of the team that will bring Natchez back to prosperity, and I promise Natchez will be a better place,&8221; Pollard said.

Ted Doody, regional development partner for Lane Company, said his company was planning to submit the required paperwork to the Mississippi Gaming Commission before the end of the year. And as soon as the commission gives them the go-ahead, they will begin on the project.

&8220;We anticipate approval sometime this spring,&8221; Doody said. &8220;It&8217;s really big for our company. We&8217;re really excited. We&8217;ll start with the casino and move on to the other projects.&8221;

Doody said his company would donate $1 million to the city. But how it will be spent &8212; whether to help develop a YMCA or civil rights museum or another project &8212; will depend on what the community feels is right, he said.

Natchez Riverfront Development Group had no official comment Monday, a representative said.

Natchez resident Gwen Ball said she thought the city&8217;s residents did not want Natchez to turn into a casino town.

&8220;I feel like the public has been left out of this decision,&8221; Ball said.

She said she had nothing against the Lane Company, but that she did not think another casino would benefit the town.

Natchez resident Rena Jean Schmieg agreed.

&8220;We care very much about riverfront access,&8221; Schmieg said.

But she told Lane Company representatives she took the company&8217;s renown into consideration.

&8220;Out of these two companies, we&8217;re pleased it was you,&8221; she said.