Casino passes planning commission

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 22, 2010

NATCHEZ — The proposed casino development on Roth Hill faced no opposition Thursday when the Natchez Planning Commission unanimously approved architectural renderings for the site.

The 38,000 square-foot, one-story casino will also accommodate a two-level parking garage that has room for growth, said Jordan, Kaiser &Sessions LLC Civil Engineer Hayden Kaiser.

“The current design will allow for a third level if additional parking is needed,” Kaiser said.

Premier Gaming Group President Kevin Preston said the planning commission’s approval was needed to submit development plans to the Mississippi Gaming Commission by Tuesday — the deadline to be placed on the gaming commission’s February meeting agenda. At that time, Preston could be given final approval to proceed.

The Natchez Preservation Commission and the planning commission will review final plans upon the gaming commission’s approval.

“We’re real excited to be here, and we think this is something everybody’s going to be proud of,” Preston told the commission.

Warren Reuther Jr., president of New Orleans Hotel Consultants, also expressed his excitement for the development.

“By taking your greatest asset (the Mississippi River), you’re opening yourself up to other developments,” Reuther said. “I think doing things like this compliments the city.”

In other business:

4 The commission tabled a setback variance proposed by Jefferson Comprehensive Health Center. Architect Johnny Waycaster of Waycaster and Associates presented plans to expand the health center by 1,200 feet along Duncan Avenue, and add a crosswalk at the intersection of Homochitto Street and Duncan Avenue.

Waycaster also wants to reduce the size of the parking lot to address the overflow number of cars. The lot accommodates 17 cars, but as many as 20 cars are parked there daily. Additional parking is available at the church across the street Monday through Friday.

Commission Chairman Deborah Martin said the safety of patients is her top concern, citing sick patients should not have to park away from the health center and walk across one of the city’s most dangerous intersections.

Dick Thompson of Live Oak Construction also expressed his concern of the plans, saying he incurred an added expense of $20,000 when he built a retaining wall between the health center and his subdivision development behind the center. Thompson said the development is now on hold due to the struggling economy.

He urged the commission to uphold its previous vote, and threatened litigation.

“They are landlocked where they are right now. It’s a horrible situation with parking in disarray.” Thompson said. “It’s an asset to the community, but they’re in the wrong location.”

“The fact is that (the health center) is needed and popular, which creates the safety concern,” Waycaster said. “We can be compliant with the code, but safety will still be an issue.”

4The commission unanimously approved Waycaster’s proposal to demolish property at 412 U.S. 61 N. to make way for a five-tenant strip mall. A stipulation for Waycaster to review landscape irrigation for the site was included in the motion.