Public needs to know more on project

Published 12:05 am Thursday, October 30, 2014

The fate of the former Margaret Martin High School is anyone’s guess.

Most people familiar with the building know the beautiful 1927 structure is in bad need of what would be costly repairs. City leaders have said they lack the funds to plow into the aging, but historic building.

Natchez aldermen took no action Tuesday to begin the long process of considering whether or not to sell the historic Mississippi Landmark to a developer who aims to turn the school into a housing development.

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Natchez Mayor Butch Brown and his sidekick Community Development Director James Johnston sought to have aldermen move forward with a request to rezone the property.

The effort to get the property rezoned would be the first in a number of steps to consider selling the school building to a developer aiming to take advantage of federal tax credits.

While Brown and Johnston are fighting hard to convince the public that the proposed development is not low-income housing, that’s not entirely correct.

The proposed development would seek to take advantage of Section 42 of IRS code’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

Brown believes it’s the best plan to keep the school building intact and also unload the maintenance burden from city taxpayers.

Maybe so, but city residents rightly want to know is this the only option for the beautiful building?

We urge city leaders to reach out and make a formal request for proposals from developers and publicize the results, not unlike the city did several years ago when considering how to develop its Roth Hill Road riverfront site.

Giving full, public consideration to all the options is the least we can do for the historic Natchez icon.