City Planner: New child crisis center location didn’t require rezoning request

Published 4:40 pm Wednesday, January 18, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Occasionally, Natchez residents may receive a letter in the mail about a new business that proposes to open in their neighborhood, but that didn’t happen when a youth crisis stabilization unit opened early this year at the former Natchez Children’s Home.

According to Frankie Legaux, director of Planning and Zoning for the City of Natchez, the center’s owner followed a process that didn’t require rezoning the property, hence why no neighborhood notices were sent.

The property, located at 806 N. Union St., is zoned as R-3 Mixed Density Residential, and likely has been for years, Legaux said. “I can’t speak to how long it has been that,” she said.

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The 28-bed center, opened by Tina Bruce of Bruce Professional Counseling, provides inpatient treatment for children and adolescents ages 6 to 18 living with mental health difficulties. Bruce has said previously the center has been certified by the Mississippi State Department of Health and the clients are “with Children Protective Services and have several different behaviors. The state has custody of them.”

Legaux said the R-3 designation is used for multi-bed facilities such as the former children’s home and bed and breakfast establishments.

If the property had been zoned differently, Bruce would have been required to fill out an application for rezoning, which would have been a five-step process: an application to the planning commission; a public hearing before the planning commission; a recommendation from that commission to the Board of Aldermen; another public hearing before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen; then a final decision on the request issued by the Board of Alderman.

With each public hearing, parties interested in the proposed amendment have an opportunity to be heard. Legaux said neighboring residents receive letters in the mail detailing the proposed changes with the date of the public hearings and a sign is placed in the yard of the property in question with the date of the hearing posted on it.

“There’s also space on the back of that letter where they can write their concerns and mail it to my office,” Legaux said, explaining how those who are not available to attend meetings can still be heard.

However, because the property was already zoned for a multi-resident use, Bruce only had to apply for a privilege license, which does not require planning commission approval.

In July 2022, license No. S01064 was issued to Bruce Professional Services for a “daycare service” at the 806 N. Union St. property.

Mayor Dan Gibson has said the city attorney is investigating whether or not the “daycare service” is the correct business type.

“We don’t have a final outcome yet,” Gibson said. “We want to make sure that any enterprise serving the public and serving our children is following every law and, in addition to that, any commercial business or any operation is following our zoning ordinances.”