Ball’s lawsuit was in city’s best interest

Published 12:08 am Sunday, June 1, 2008

Kirk Bartley, not a resident of Ward 3, recently wrote a letter to The Natchez Democrat in support of Bob Pollard for alderman of Ward 3. He devoted more than half of his letter to reasons not to vote for Gwen Ball, all of which were related to the present administration’s condominium fiasco.

On behalf of Gwen Ball and as a resident of Ward 3, I want to correct the erroneous information provided by Mr. Bartley. Gwen was not a part of a lawsuit related to the demolition of the old pecan factory and the rezoning of the same. Gwen was one of the plaintiffs in a law suit related only to how the property was sold and that it was sold for less than the appraised value. If asked, I am sure that former city attorney, Walter Brown, who represented the city in the suit, will confirm this.

Gwen’s participation in the lawsuit demonstrates her concern for the rights of the citizens of Natchez. The mayor and board of aldermen had no public hearings to seek input from citizens before deciding to sell one of the city’s most valuable pieces of real estate.

Email newsletter signup

The city solicited proposals, chose Worley-Brown, LLC, and sold the bluff property for less than the appraised value with no public input. Further, the city agreed to invest the proceeds from the sale into infrastructure costs related to the condo development, resulting in net income of zero for the City of Natchez. The development was also residential, generating no sales tax for the city. Lastly, the city agreed to allow Worley-Brown, LLC, to deny public access to the walk along the bluff edge of the property, a major portion of the river walk enjoyed by a large number of our citizens and visitors.

Gwen Ball is not anti-development. She likely would have embraced one of the proposals submitted to develop the bluff property had she and the public been given the opportunity to review the proposals before the selection was made. One proposal was for a multi-use development that included a trendy rehabilitation of the Natchez pecan factory for restaurant and retail use, a small number of residentially scaled condominiums at the northern end of the property, the reconstruction of the historic lighthouse to serve as a public observatory and an open plaza for public viewing of sunsets. This development actually included detailed plans and cost estimates, complied with all local and state regulations, and posed no threat to bluff stability. The city would have made a profit on the sale of the land and received continuing sales tax income from the businesses located in the pecan factory. The bluff walk would have remained open to all our citizens and visitors.

Because the city chose a project that defied local ordinances and state regulations, today we see only an overgrown lot that is an eyesore in the historic district. It is truly sad that a good citizen has to sue to try to get open government instead of back room and bar room deals made to favor political cronies. Gwen Ball is passionate about Natchez and has proven that she will work for the good of the entire community. With Gwen, you can be sure that you will have an open and honest government that solicits public input, listens to all sides of an issue, and works to build consensus.

Jan Priester Byrne

Natchez resident