Rezoning decision for assisted living center property delayed

Published 12:08 am Wednesday, July 10, 2013

NATCHEZ — Before residents could voice their disapproval and aldermen could cast their vote on a zoning change, the architect for a proposed assisted-living facility cried “Uncle!” Tuesday.

Johnny Waycaster of Waycaster & Associates asked the board to postpone a decision on the application for rezoning until its July 23 meeting.

Waycaster said he would like time to get support for the facility from the Glenwood residents

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“I’m convinced this is the right process and the right zoning … I would like to convince the neighborhood to support this.”

The request for rezoning comes from property owner and developer Gayle Evans, who plans to build an assisted-living facility on the property, which he has owned for more than 30 years.

The planning commission voted to recommend the rezoning request in 2009, but it was later denied by the board of aldermen after several residents from the Glenwood subdivision spoke out against the development.

Residents again recently spoke out against the development at the planning commission meeting last week.

The commission again recommended the rezoning to the board of aldermen.

Attorney Rusty Jenkins represented Evans at the planning meeting last week and said an error when the city’s zoning maps were updated in 2007 resulted in the property being incorrectly zoned.

The maps were approved by the aldermen at the time, however, and became legally binding, something Jenkins said Evans only found when he went to the planning department in 2009 to seek permits to move forward with the housing project.

Former City Planner Rusty Lewis applied to correct the maps at that time, but the board of aldermen denied the planner’s request.

Prior to Waycaster’s request for a delay, City Attorney Hyde Carby and Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard recused themselves from discussion and the decision on the application. Dillard and Carby both left the meeting.

Carby, who is related to Jenkins and a couple of Glenwood residents that were present in the audience, said his involvement in the discussion is not an ethics violation. He said, however, in order not to give the appearance of favoritism, he wished to recuse himself.

Dillard said the same because he is employed by Waycase & Associates.

Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith, who lives in the Glenwood subdivision, said she consulted the ethics commission after a potential conflict of interest was presented to her Sunday night. She said, however, the commission has not had time to rule on the matter.

Smith said she felt comfortable not recusing herself from the matter because she did not believe the development would impact her property value.

Smith also said that her stepfather has served as a spokesperson for the neighborhood regarding the development, but he has not been compensated for his services.

“I feel very comfortable doing what I was elected to do, which is represent the people (who elected me),” Smith said.

Smith said after the meeting that she appreciated Waycaster willingness to meet again with concerned residents.

Smith said she was unsure about whether residents would eventually support the project.

“I think anything is possible,” she said.

Glenwood resident and local attorney Kent Hudson said after the meeting he feels the neighborhood may be open to supporting the project if it is scaled down, particularly the height of the building.

Original plans in 2009 included a five- or six-story building. The latest plans, City Planner Frankie Legaux has said, include a three-story facility and a one-story dining center.

Hudson said the Glenwood residents are not attempting to stop development of the property.

“It’s just a matter of getting something there that fits the lot and is aesthetically pleasing,” he said.

The board is expected to take up the matter at 6 p.m. July 23 in the Natchez City Council Chambers.