Hotel tax approved by board

Published 12:09 am Wednesday, February 27, 2008

NATCHEZ — Natchez aldermen unanimously approved a $2 occupancy tax on hotel rooms at their Tuesday night meeting.

But Aldermen Bob Pollard stressed that it is not a tax increase but a fee for a tourism marketing fund.

Tourism officials originally planned to request an increase in the restaurant and hotel taxes, but opted to eliminate the restaurant tax after a public outcry against it.

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The aldermen also voted Tuesday that before any money earned by the hotel tax is spent it must be approved by them.

A resolution from the aldermen still has to go before the Mississippi Legislature for approval before it is finalized.

In other business, the board of aldermen voted unanimously to deny a request from Audubon Terrace developers that would have allowed them to build a proposed project.

The project would have built a low- to mid-income housing development in the neighborhood of Bluebird Drive, but zoning laws prohibit it.

The planning commission voted weeks ago against changing the zoning. It was the group’s appeal to the aldermen that was denied Tuesday.

All the seats in the council chambers were full and people lined the walls to hear the outcome of the appeal.

Dale Danks, attorney for the developers, said before the vote that if the appeal was turned down, the city and the developers may go to court to settle this issue.

Charles Harris, Natchez resident, spoke against the development, saying it would be residential segregation.

By not spreading the development throughout the city, it would cause clustering.

This kind of clustering causes many problems, a point that Natchez resident Jimmy Love brought up.

He said it would cause a high volume of traffic and a high crime rate.

Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said if there were to be a low-income housing development built in Natchez, that it would have to be spread throughout the city.

Alderman James “Ricky” Gray’s concern dealt with creosote, a carcinogenic material used to treat railroad ties.

Gray referred to a land study that showed the soil where the proposed development would be had been contaminated with creosote.

“I want to go on record saying Alderman Gray is not against houses for people,” he said. “But I’m not going to let you move into an area that’s going to make you sick.”

Aldermen Theodore “Bubber” West said the board is in support of a housing project, but not this one.

Mathis said the board has been working furiously to try to bring a housing development to Natchez.

In other business, City Attorney Everett Sanders, in his report, recommended that the board adopt a resolution written by Jim Coy, manager of Natchez Pilgrimage Tours.

The resolution, which asks for exemption of the Delta Queen from the Safety of Life at Sea Act of 1966, will go before Congress.

The resolution was unanimously adopted by the board.