Natchez Planning Commission to take up Eola again

Published 12:25 am Tuesday, April 19, 2016

NATCHEZ — Plans for the former Natchez Eola hotel building are expected to come before the Natchez Planning commission once again on Thursday.

Developers of the property will seek approval on plans to remodel the first floor of the building. Since the building, which the owner hopes to transform into upscale senior apartments, is in the historic district the planning commission must approve the first-floor plans.

Interim City Planner Riccardo Giani said he has officially recommended the approval of the application.

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“I do feel it conforms with the development code and the comprehensive plan,” Giani said. “But it’s up to the commission to decide whether they agree with me or not.”

Giani denied the application the first time it was submitted because plans did not include enough public access to the first floor, which he said is required of buildings in the historic business district.

The developers appealed the decision to the planning commission in February. In that presentation, the developers verbally pitched a new plan, which included 100-percent public access to the first floor. However, the new plan was not shown on the documents accompanying the application.

The planning commission denied the application, but Giani said the developers were encouraged to reapply or appeal using documents showing the new, more accessible plan.

The developers and their attorney, Tony Heidelberg, appealed the denial to the Natchez Board of Aldermen.

Aldermen chose not to hear the presentation or rule on the application in their March 8 meeting, instead asking Heidelberg to present revised plans to the planning commission at its next meeting.

Heidelberg said he intends to present those plans in the commission’s meeting at 5:15 p.m. Thursday in council chambers.

“We’re going to present the plan as outlined by the planning commission and see if it’s approved,” Heidelberg said. “Hopefully it will.”

If the application is approved Thursday, Heidelberg said construction likely would not begin immediately.

“It might be a week or so of assessing before they do anything, because at this point they’ll have to gut everything out,” Heidelberg said. “The team will have to come in and do an assessment to make sure there are no structural issues that will be a danger to workers first.”

Heidelberg said recent storm damage to the exterior wall is part of the developers’ concern, in addition to the problems that commonly plague old buildings,

“What you’d hate to do is go in and assess it today and the permit not be approved,” Heidelberg said. “You’re looking at 30-60 days before you can (present an appeal), and there’s a lot of damage that can occur in 30-60 days.”