Natchez needs to look the part

Published 12:10 am Sunday, September 18, 2011

For far too many years, the City of Natchez has had a not-so-hidden secret.

Despite being a city heralded as one of the most historic cities in the South, with literally hundreds of antebellum structures still standing, behind some of those mansions, parts of Natchez appear more like a third-world slum than a world-class tourist destination.

Abandoned, rundown houses dot the city’s landscapes. Their presence cuts across neighborhood and economic boundaries alike.

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Natchez City Planner Bob Nix is working on revisions to the system the city uses to address blighted property. The owners of many of the dilapidated properties live elsewhere and simply seem to have no concern over the state of their property.

Nix’s hope is to create a system in which property owners can be better encouraged to heed the city’s ordinances, clean up run-down properties and prevent the city from having to take action and expend taxpayer money in the process.

As Alderman James “Rickey” Gray said this week, the issue isn’t just about aesthetics, though given our tourism industry it should weigh heavily on our plans.

It’s also a matter of public safety. Abandoned buildings can become havens for criminal activity.

Nix and other city leaders are right on target with plans to increase the city’s legal ability to enforce the codes already on the books.

It’s critical that the city clean up its dilapidated structures, particularly those that have been allowed to deteriorate too much to be rehabilitated.

Proper code enforcement is long overdue in Natchez, and we’re happy the city seems to be working toward a solution.