Housing group upset over meeting

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 26, 2008

NATCHEZ — Representatives for the Audubon Terrace housing complex said Friday that they had a good reason for canceling a meeting with the Natchez aldermen Thursday.

The aldermen expressed frustration that the meeting was canceled on short notice.

Andrew Smith, a consultant for the Audubon development group, said the meeting was canceled because vital transcripts, in the city’s possession, were given to Smith and their attorney Michael Corey without sufficient time for them to study the transcripts and make an informed presentation to the board.

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Smith said the transcripts in question were from a Nov. 15, meeting between the Terrace’s representatives and the planning commission.

At that meeting, the commission decided not to grant a change of zoning that would have allowed the Audubon Terrace project to move forward.

The proposed project would build a low to mid-income housing development in the neighborhood of Bluebird Drive.

Smith said the first meeting between the board and the builders was canceled because the transcripts were never provided to them.

The second meeting was also canceled because Smith said while the transcripts were turned over they were not turned over with sufficient time for the Terrace’s representation to review them.

City Planner Dennis Story said he gave the transcripts to the city attorney, Everett Sanders, to turn over to the Terrace.

“We provided them with the information they needed in a timely fashion,” Sanders said.

However Smith and Corey did not share that feeling.

After Thursday’s meeting Alderman James “Ricky” Gray also expressed concerns about a land study, near the proposed project site, that says an unused stretch of railroad has ties that have been treated with creosote.

Those ties, the study says, contaminate the soil.

Gray said the study, provided to him by Audubon Terrace, has him concerned that building near the land could cause undue health problems to residents living near the site.

Smith said he has since provided the city with evidence to the contrary. “That issue has been rectified,” he said.

Smith said the ties have been removed and the soil underneath them has been removed and replaced.

However the city planner, city engineer and the city building inspector all say they have seen no such report nor do they have knowledge of the report.

In addition, Story said he is unaware of any work that would have removed the ties and replaced the soil.

Both Smith and Corey said they will be present at the Feb. 26 aldermen meeting to address the board.

“We are looking forward to resolving this matter,” Smith said. However, as of now it’s unclear just how much resolution the matter will actually see.

“If 99.9 percent of the people who live in the area don’t want this project, why do they want to shove it down their throats?” Gray said.