Developer taking steps to appeal planning decision

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 20, 2008

NATCHEZ — Despite Thursday’s action by the Natchez Planning Commission, Larry L. “Butch” Brown said he’s moving forward on plans to develop his land on South Canal Street.

To do so, he’ll be making an appeal to the Natchez Board of Aldermen.

Thursday’s commission vote was an amendment that, if adopted by the Natchez Board of Aldermen, would not allow the construction of an RV resort in a B-2 zoned area.

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And that would directly impact Brown’s plans.

The commission voted to only allow RV resorts in a B-4 zone, which is for heavy commercial and light industrial use.

Brown’s land doesn’t currently have B-4 zoning status.

“It’s a work in progress,” Brown said of his project.

While Brown said the project is still in the preliminary phases, he said he’s hoping a successful appeal to the aldermen will move his project forward.

Brown did not outline the specifics of his appeal on Friday.

“They can be site specific or they can just vote on this,” Brown said.

Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton said he believes Brown’s appeal options will first depend on whether the aldermen vote to make the commission’s amendment part of the city’s ordinance.

“That’s the first step,” Middleton said. “We would have to accept what they did (Thursday.)”

Middleton said if the aldermen did accept the commission’s amendment, Brown has two options.

And each scenario takes the entire process through a multi-step course of approval and re-approval.

First, Brown could petition the aldermen to allow B-2 zones to be considered for RV usage in addition to B-4 zones.

In that instance, commission chairwoman Deborah Martin said the matter would be subject to a public hearing since the issue was already voted on by the commission.

Middleton said Brown’s second option would be to petition to have his B-2 land re-zoned as B-4 land.

“And that needs to go back before the planning commission,” he said.

Middleton said if the aldermen vote against the amendment the matter would be back at “square one.”

Martin said the reason the commission already voted against B-2 zoning is because it could have a negative impact on residents if the RV resort were built within the city’s central business district.

For that, some downtown residents like Chick Graning are grateful.

Graning said if Brown’s project were to move forward it would back up against his property and would not add to the community.

Graning said he feels the price of gas will rise again and make RV resorts unprofitable.

And he is concerned the facility will then be used as a trailer park, and thereby invite less than desirable individuals into the area.

“It’s going to become a trailer park and we do not want that,” he said.

Brown said RV parking is only a “component” of his entire project, which includes a restaurant and hotel.

The facility would not become a trailer park, he said.

Graning said he supports Brown’s right to appeal, and will be looking into counter appeal options.

Martin also said she’s concerned the aldermen, through Brown’s appeal, could undo what the commission has done.

“We worked hard to find something in the best interest of Natchez,” she said.

And Martin’s concerns are not completely unfounded.

The aldermen are not expected to vote on the B-4 zoning issue until their first meeting in February.