Developer appeals planning commission decision

Published 12:01 am Thursday, December 6, 2007

NATCHEZ — Controversial plans to build an affordable housing project in north Natchez are being appealed to the board of aldermen after a preliminary commission declined the necessary rezoning.

The Natchez Planning Commission at its November meeting declined Dallas-based Roundstone Development’s request to rezone roughly 25 acres in north Natchez.

Planning Commission Chair Deborah Martin said rezoning would be considered if it met one of the following conditions:

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4There was an error in the code to begin with.

4There was a change of conditions in the area that warranted rezoning.

4There was an increase in need at the site for business or industry.

4If the subdivision of open land into urban building sites makes reclassification “necessary and desirable.”

At the Nov. 15 public hearing, the planning commission found the development company couldn’t prove any of those four criteria, Commission Vice-Chair Ed Godfrey said.

“The other main issue with us was virtually everybody in all the neighborhoods affected by this signed petitions against it,” Godfrey said. “Not one person was in favor of it.”

There were 70 to 80 people at the public hearing, all of whom were opposed to the proposed project, Godfrey said.

The proposed project would include 65 single-family units, stretching from Old Washington Road to Oriole Terrace. Developers have said the houses would have to be rented for 15 years before they could be purchased.

Residents have expressed concern about overcrowding, heavier traffic and possible existing chemical contamination in the area.

At the Dec. 18 alderman meeting, the board will have the opportunity to hear from the development company and uphold or overturn the commission’s decision.

Alderman James “Ricky” Gray, in whose ward some of the development is planned, said feedback from residents had been overwhelming.

“I don’t think the board in its right mind would overturn something that 99.9 percent of citizens of that area don’t want,” Gray said. “That’s my opinion.”

Alderman David Massey said he thought the board would not overturn the planning commission’s decision.

“We met with them (Tuesday) night and discussed this,” Massey said. “With all the reservations the planning commission gave, I, for one, will uphold the planning commission’s decision.”

Part of the planned development would also be in Theodore “Bubber” West’s ward.

“I have voiced my concern from day one about the development,” West said. “I am not in favor of ‘stacking,’ where we congest an area that’s already congested. But I will listen to the appeal.”

West said the potential traffic congestion concerned him, and there was other land in the county on which the developers could build.

“Plus, my constituents in Ward 4 have indicated they do not approve of it,” West said.