Is bluff project best use of land?

Published 12:03 am Sunday, November 2, 2014

Has Natchez’s city leadership learned nothing in the seven years since the last bluff land-use debacle?

For those who may have forgotten, the City of Natchez sold a portion of the bluff several years ago to private condo developers. Two lawsuits and several years later, the city wound up buying the land back.

Flash forward a few years and the city is yet again poised to make another decision over the long-term future of the now public bluff.

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A project that would restore the former Broadway Street train depot has been announced. The tenants of the building were kicked to the curb, and the building’s cleanup begun. But the project seems to have run out of steam, at least temporarily.

The building currently sits open to the elements, and to vandals. It’s a horrible sight for travelers on the beautiful Natchez Trails.

One of the hurdles the project must overcome is a requirement from a potential funding source the property be owned by Alcorn State University, one of the city’s partners in the project.

The immediate question city leaders must ask is: Should one of the most valuable pieces of properties in the city simply be deeded over to Alcorn?

The bigger question city leaders and residents should ask might be: Is creating a farmers’ market, demonstration garden and office space on the bluff the highest and best use of the land?

Let’s have a public discussion on this. The problem seems to be that the grant-funding tail is wagging the dog here. The city is so worried about losing potential grant funding for the project, they appear to be willing to do almost anything to make the project happen — even if the project makes no logical sense.

Putting a farmers’ market on the bluff makes about as much sense as putting a women’s dress shop at the Adams County Port. It’s just not the best use of the land. If the city seeks to simply get rid of the depot, let’s accept bids from the private sector and at least get the building back on the tax rolls.