Eola decision should return to planning commission

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 10, 2016

A decision on future development plans for the former Natchez Eola Hotel building is expected to come before the Natchez Board of Aldermen soon.

We hope the board has the wisdom to simply punt the matter back to where it belongs — the Natchez Planning Commission.

The commission rejected the developer’s plans last month, but suggested in doing so that the developers could change the plans and appeal to Natchez aldermen — the entity charged with hearing appeals to planning commission decisions.

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The challenge in this case is that the aldermen are far from objective — and who can blame them — they have money on the line, the city’s and in some case’s their own.

The city receives a little more than $1 million annually from Magnolia Bluffs Casino as part of its lease arrangement for the city’s land at the foot of Roth Hill Road. The casino shares some ownership with Eola’s developers.

One aldermen — who works as a professional tradesman — has been working for the casino on its hotel renovation project. Another alderman and the mayor — who would only have a vote in case of tie vote — have received campaign contributions from one of the casino’s owners.

Even if the people involved have the ability to set aside their own personal involvement in the matter, to not keep an arm’s length distance from the matter simply puts the city’s objectivity into question.

Natchez city leaders would be wise to simply avoid the look of impropriety and send the development plans back to the planning commission for full vetting and an ultimate decision.