Casino brings back new amendments

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Mayor Jake Middleton listens to public comments and questions about the proposed amendment to the lease between Natchez Enterprises and the city. Natchez Enterprises attorney Tommy Shepherd introduced a new proposed amendment to the board Monday night.

NATCHEZ — Less than a week after Natchez aldermen rejected lease amendments from the Roth Hill casino developers, Natchez Gaming Enterprises has brought a revised lease to the table. Casino officials presented the new amendments at a specially-called aldermen’s work session.

The new version of the amendment was pared down from 10 pages to little more than two, a change that attorney Tommy Shepherd, who represented Natchez Gaming Enterprises, said made it a much more readable document.

Click here for copy of proposed lease amendment

Shepherd said that some confusion exists about a number of clauses in the proposed amendment, and he addressed the changes the amendment would make one-by-one.

The slight change of site location for the casino, which was moved north from its original proposed location, is wider than the original lease but actually takes up less acreage than the original lease, which encompassed a number of acres in the Mississippi River as part of “riparian rights” — 10.3 acres in all.

“This (new site) includes acreage that is in the water,” Shepherd said. “(The) dry land is less than 5.3 acres. We will lease water (acreage) from (the city), but not anywhere close to 10.3 acres.”

When Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis asked Shepherd if City Engineer David Gardner was in on the reconfiguration of the site, Shepherd said the casino’s engineers drew it.

“I think from now on David needs to be here for these discussions,” Mathis said. “There are too many discussions of what David Gardner drew, what they drew.”

The casino has dropped restrictions on the payment of $225,000 to the city annually, and agreed to pay the full amount regardless of revenues, Shepherd said.

“We have taken that out – we have gone with the original concept,” he said.

The new amendment would have the casino build a riverfront park, but would allow the casino to build a 50-space parking lot to accompany the park. The lot would be used by residents who want to enjoy the park during the day, and at night, if the casino’s parking garage is full, patrons may use it, Shepherd said.

“There was concern about it being a giant asphalt patch,” he said. “That was never our concern.”

The 100-space, off-site parking lot the city has to provide the casino needs to be designated by May and available by the casino’s opening date in December, Shepherd said.