Planner ready for work

Published 6:00 am Sunday, January 14, 2007

After a little over a month officially in office, Natchez City Planner Dennis Story said he has plans to help Natchez grow.

One goal is to improve the city’s structures as a whole.

“When I look at Natchez, I see two cities: the antebellum houses and beautiful downtown, and then I see areas like Martin Luther King Street that are just different places,” Dennis said.

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He said he rode with Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis to see the different areas of town.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” he said.

“As a planner, I ask, ‘What can we do?’”

Dennis said he plans to ride with other aldermen and look at other wards and see how they can be improved.

One step toward that goal is beefing up the planning code in areas outside the historic district.

While building regulations in the historic downtown area are strict, other areas of town don’t have as many criteria to meet, he said.

Dennis said he would try to create monetary incentives, like grants or loans, for property owners to keep up their property.

Another goal is to complete and implement the updated land development code. The update is almost finished, but a new zoning map required to complement it will probably take another few months.

After that, the code will be brought before the board of aldermen.

He said he also hopes to help educate people on what can be a complex subject.

“We’re looking at creating department brochures that explain the how-tos and processes,” Dennis said.

There is a lot of work to be done in the department, Dennis said.

He said he didn’t think it was the fault of the previous city planner, Andrew Smith.

Mayor Phillip West fired Smith this summer after he said he received complaints from the public and from Smith’s co-workers.

Dennis said he thought it was an accumulation of many of the planners over the years.

The biggest thing he said he wanted people to know was that during his time in office, Dennis wanted the planning department to be an open entity, referring to previous planners’ approaches.

“I want it to be before the people’s eyes in a good way,” Dennis said.

“Things may have been done a different way in the past. I’m here now, and we’ll do it a different way now.”