Owner of former FBC ready to sell

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 27, 2009

NATCHEZ — Former First Baptist Church developer Judy Weatherly said she is ready to wash her hands of the project.

The developer from Marrero, La., purchased the building in September 2007, and since then she has had multiple run-ins with the Natchez Preservation Commission over construction.

“The preservation commission has really slapped me in the face,” she said.

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Weatherly met with City Planner John “Rusty” Lewis Monday to discuss what she could do to move the project forward but decided after the meeting that she is ready to sell the building.

“I felt it was not fruitful on my behalf,” she said of the meeting.

Her brother and project coordinator Jim Thompson had also met with Lewis.

Both Weatherly and Thompson said they were hoping the meeting would lead to building permits to start doing work.

“We can do what our resources allow, which is very little, but it’s still something to show we’re moving forward with it,” Thompson said.

Weatherly said with the money they have now, they could remove the caving-in roof and other hazardous material from the building.

Thompson said Lewis, however, would not allow them to receive permits without proving their financial stability for the entire project.

“They want to make sure we have the money to do what we need to do,” he said.

Weatherly said currently she does not have that money, and her plan was to do it in a piecemeal manner with the funds she has.

And she said that was not acceptable to Lewis.

Lewis said he never asked for proof of liquidity from Weatherly.

Also, Thompson said Lewis said he needs engineer-approved plans to get a permit to tear down the roof.

Thompson said an engineer can’t approve any building plans without the building being torn down to its “bare bones,” with all the hazardous material removed.

Lewis said he did not ask for new plans, but he said he feels that new plans should be drawn up since the ones Thompson is working on are a few years old.

“It seems to me a fresh review from engineers would be appropriate,” Lewis said.

Without permits, they can do no work, and without doing work, demolition by neglect charges will be filed.

“The best option is to sell it,” Thompson said.

At the preservation commission’s meeting in November, Weatherly was given 60 days to present viable plans for the building’s development.

Time ran out at this month’s meeting, and Weatherly did not appear.

“Neither one of us could be at the meeting,” Weatherly said, citing surgery and family emergency as the reasons.

So the commission voted to move forward with the demolition by neglect proceedings.

Lewis said he believes giving Weatherly and Thompson more time would be fruitless.

“They just want more time and we’ve given them time, and given them time and given them time,” he said. “To give them another 60 days, we have no reason to believe they’d do anymore at the end of that time period.”