Condo developer sorry for breaking rules

Published 12:01 am Thursday, February 14, 2008

NATCHEZ — The developer responsible for breaking policy during renovations at the former First Baptist Church apologized to the Natchez Preservation Commission Wednesday night.

Judy Weatherly appeared before the board to get permission to proceed with work that was halted several months ago for lack of a permit.

Weatherly, owner of the building, said she followed the rules she was accustomed to when working on her properties in historic areas of New Orleans. The preservation commission has said Weatherly should not have removed stained-glass windows from the building because they never received commission approval to do so.

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But Weatherly said she felt removing the stained-glass windows was necessary.

“The building was in total disrepair; the windows were being broken daily; the roof is literally caving in,” Weatherly said. “I do apologize for not following everything. I did my best to follow everything.”

Developers working downtown are to receive commission approval before going to the board of aldermen. Weatherly bypassed the commission.

Commission Chairman Marty Seibert told Weatherly that the commission was concerned with what they’d seen.

“I think all of us on this commission have been rather disconcerted over the whole process,” she said.

“We’re very wary that the correct process has not been followed from the beginning.”

The commission asked about the removal of gutters from the outside of the building.

Weatherly said the gutters were stolen by thieves.

“Different neighbors would tell us that people were removing gutters,” she said. “We didn’t do any of that, there was no reason to do that.”

After Weatherly’s apology, Seibert made sure Weatherly understood the guidelines set by the city and the preservation commission.

“You are aware that nothing can be done to the exterior without approval?” Seibert asked.

Weatherly said she did then asked commission for permission to remove the current roof tiles.

Commission member Sara Garcia asked if there were any way the tiles could be saved.

“They’re so beautiful,” she said.

Architect Johnny Waycaster said it would be too costly.

“There’s a way, but it’s very expensive,” Waycaster said.

Seibert said her concern was that Weatherly would strip the roof of the tiles, sell them and then something would halt the project and the building would be abandoned.

“Then the building we’re trying to remember would be lost,” she said.

Weatherly said she would not be selling the tiles as most are broken or porous from years of weather.

“There’s no market for them,” she said. “We have nothing to sell.”

After the meeting Seibert said she was glad to hear from Weatherly.

“The plans look very doable and promising,” she said. “I look forward to the completion of the project and working with them throughout the project.”