No planning commission meeting due to lack of quorum

Published 6:42 pm Thursday, May 16, 2024

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NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez Planning Commission meeting today was canceled at 5:30 p.m. due to lack of a quorum.

Chairwoman Cheryl Rinehart had planned to be absent from tonight’s regularly-scheduled meeting. Commission Dan Hays-Clark was acting chairman of the commission in Rinehart’s absence. However, members Charles Harris, Emma Rose Jackson and Butch Johnson did not attend, which left the commission without a quorum and unable to meeting. In attendance were commission members Mildred Chapman, Marcia McCullough, Hays-Clark and Jonathan Smith.

The meeting was scheduled to begin at 5:15 p.m. About 25 members of the public were waiting at the Council Chambers when Hays-Clark called off the meeting.

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Tonight’s planning commission meeting had a public hearing scheduled to gather citizen input on a request from New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, which owns the former Natchez Children’s Home at 806 N. Union St., for a special exception to once again operate the facility as a children’s home.

The building served as an orphanage from its founding in 1816 until it stopped housing children in 2009, when the focus of the organization running it shifted from housing children at the Natchez Children’s Home to placing them in foster homes. The building is now owned by New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, which at one time planned to use the facility as a school. The church has requested the special exception through its attorney, Charles F. Stewart Sr.

Bishop Stanley Searcy said as a representative of the church, he requested the hearing “just to see what is going on. It has always been a children’s home. Since before the Civil War, it has been a children’s home. We have Dr. (Tina) Bruce there just waiting to find out what’s going on.”

While the building is listed for sale by Brittney West Patten of BW Realty, Bruce leased the building from the church and used it as a crisis stabilization unit for troubled children beginning in January 2023. However, neighbors questioned whether the business operated by Dr. Bruce went through the proper approval process. Frankie Legaux, city planner, said Bruce never applied for a special exception to operate her facility, and it closed.

Legaux, who was at tonight’s meeting before it was cancelled, said it will be at least 15 days before another meeting can be held because of state law requiring the public to print a legal advertisement giving notice of the meeting in the community’s newspaper of record, The Natchez Democrat. Hays-Clark said the hearing and other agenda items likely would wait until the commission’s June meeting, set for the third Thursday in June, which is June 20, at 5:15 p.m.