Preservation panel unhappy with city parking request

Published 8:09 pm Thursday, March 14, 2024

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NATCHEZ — The city’s Preservation Commission tabled a request by the City of Natchez to enlarge a parking lot at the Natchez Civic Center, scolding city officials for presenting incomplete information and plans for its request.

City Planner Frankie Legaux said city officials asked her to prepare the design for the parking lot, which would be located on green space on city property at the Civic Center, 211 Franklin St.

Legaux said the city seeks to add 18 parking spaces and relocate the entrance of the parking lot to the center of the property.

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Preservation Commission Chairman Andy Sartin asked if the plan had been approved by the planning commission before coming to the preservation commission. Legaux said she was instructed to start the process with the preservation commission.

“So we get to be the bad guy,” Sartin said.

He said the plan presented by Legaux does not answer a number of important questions and does not meet the standard the city expects others to present in similar situations, such as plans for drainage, lighting and landscaping.

“There is an issue there already right now with drainage, and I mentioned that to Justin Dollar (public works director) and Justin blew me off. I’m only a planner. I don’t know anything,” Legaux said. “I only got in on the tail end of this thing when they told me to draw a plan. They may have plans for lighting. I don’t know.”

Preservation Commission Member Liz Dantone said drainage should be handled internally in the parking lot, rather than having water simply drain into the streets. “That’s what the city requires of others,” she said.

Sartin said the plan should have gone through other city departments before coming to the preservation commission.

“We need more information. This should have gone through engineering and public works people — all those departments are supposed to look at it before it comes to us. It is supposed to be a plan review,” Sartin said.

In addition, neighbor Conner Burns, who owns property to the west of the Civic Center at 209 Franklin St., submitted a letter in opposition to the city’s plans for additional parking. Burns presented concerns about the dumpster on the property, lighting and drainage.

Dantone said she would like to see commercial dumpsters hidden behind enclosures in the city’s historic district.

“I would like to advance the aesthetics of downtown Natchez by placing enclosures around commercial trash dumpsters. In fact, fully exposed commercial trash dumpsters are not in keeping with our historic guidelines,” Danton said. “A lot of times they are left out in the middle of the parking lot, as this one is.”

She suggested the preservation commission set a precedent for other parking lot developments to come, such as that of the Eola Hotel perhaps and the railroad depot on the bluff, to require some type of fencing or enclosure around commercial dumpsters.

“We have an opportunity to make a real difference by doing that,” Dantone said.

Commissioner Lansen Barrow said this parking lot issue and how the city handled it has given him “some real heartburn.” He said he has problems with city officials asking Legaux to wear two hats and no one else from the city being present to answer questions or represent the city.

Commissioner Charles Hill agreed. “This is not an appropriate way to make an application.”

The commission voted to table the request until such time as the city could present plans that would address drainage, lighting and landscaping concerns, as well as a plan to enclose the commercial dumpster.

In other business, the preservation commission:

• approved a request from Ginger Hyland, owner of the Towers, to place a fence and gates along the Oak Street side of her property.

• approved a request from Wes Pack to replace doors and transom window, remove shutters and install a window between doors at 101-103 S. Pearl St.

• approved a request by the City of Natchez to repair a cargo door on the east end of the Depot on the bluff and remove plywood and install a duplicate cargo door on the west end of the Depot. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History must also approve the plans.

• approved a request from Charles and Courtney Feltus of 103 Clifton Ave. to install a fence in front of the residence and plant camellias near the southern boundary of the property.

• approved a request from Edan Autry for exterior improvements and the addition of a porch at 23 Ridge St.

• gave preliminary approval to Magnolia Bluffs Casino to replace a sign at the corner of Broadway and Roth Hill Road, which was destroyed by a motorist. The preservation commission requested the city planning office’s paint committee give final approval of the paint colors of the sign.

• approved a request by Laine and Kevin Berry to rebuild a roof and install architectural shingles at 147 Homochitto St., Hope Farm.

• approved a request from Trinity Episcopal Church, 305 S. Commerce to upgrade its security system including the addition of exterior lights and cameras and screening of a generator on the Washington Street side of the church building

• approved a request from Shirley Petkovsek of 301 S. Wall St. to install a handrail for steps on the right side of the home. Petkovsek, who is a preservation commission member, recused herself from the discussion and vote on her request.