Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Rape and Mutilation of the Natchez Waterfront

Natchez is about to lose her historic waterfront. We might soon see wall to wall development along the Waterfront Historic District, which is from Broadway to the River and from Madison Street south to the bridge. You thought one condo was bad? Try a whole row of 75 foot buildings blocking your access and your view of the river.

If, as expected, the proposed Development Code goes into effect, this is what owners of that property will have the right to build along our waterfront:

  • Casinos
  • Condominiums
  • Planned Unit Developments: a tract of land under single ownership that is planned and developed for commercial, retail, or office use
  • Liquor Stores
  • Restaurants
  • Auditoriums
  • Specialty retail stores
  • Barber or beauty shops
  • Art Galleries or Museums
  • Antique Stores

There will be no hearings about whether the citizens of Natchez want the development. There will be no recourse to the courts. The law will say they have the right to build these things.

Owners will still have to abide by building codes and planning & preservation guidelines, but the use of the land is not up for debate or discussion. So we may have historic condos, but we're going to get condos.

To make matters worse, this is what owners can build if they get the so-hard-to-get approval of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen:

  • Bars
  • Nightclubs
  • Brew Pubs
  • Offices
  • Resource Extractions: Extraction of minerals, ores, soils, and any other solid matter from its original location, including but not limited to quarrying, open pit, mining, drilling, tunneling, strip mining and any other such activities YIKES!

You may be thinking that much of the Bluff is public property and exempt from this. But the City has already sold public property to developers and has plans to sell more. So don't let that soothe you.

There was a hearing about the proposed Development yesterday before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen. Were you there? Probably not. What most people said was "Why bother to express an opinion before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen when they don't listen anyway." Good point! There were lots of people at the hearing but only two of us mentioned the Waterfront District. I'm sad to say most people have no idea what is about to happen.

What you can do now:

  • You could provide a written opinion to the Planning Director Dennis Story in City Hall by 5 pm Friday.
  • You can also attend the next meeting of the Planning Commission on Thursday, May 17 at 5 pm in the City Council Chambers. You will likely not be able to speak, but your presence will say a lot.
  • Vote in the poll on this site, so we can get an idea how citizens want our Bluffs developed - and ask your friends and neighbors to vote.

At its meeting, the Planning Commission is set to make changes based on the public hearing and send it on to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen for final approval on Tuesday, May 22.

If you don't want a 75 foot wall of buildings on the Bluffs, you'd better do something NOW!


Genevieve said...

I don't live in Natchez, but personally, I'm in favor of retaining the historic waterfront in as authentic a form as possible.

Observer said...

Wow, Casey - are you being an alarmist? Surely it doesn't allow all this on the waterfront. What about Archives and History? Of course we all know our city council members act as though that august body doesn't exist, but doesn't the Dept. of Archives and History legally have oversite of the historic bluff lands? I don't see how the city can just bypass these requirements, especially in a town like Natchez. Also, what about the danger of having all that weight on the experimental bluff stabalization project? People can be killed if that doesn't hold. Isn't there anyone at the local paper who would take up the cause for the waterfront. I've seen a few articles supporting it. People need to be educated. This is major!!

Anonymous said...

This City Council has tried everything in their power to subude/obliterate perservation codes, guidelines. I too, have seen the new code details and Casey's right. They want 75' on that bluff. Remember that a few years back David Massey was quoted in the Jackson paper that the City council "sort of sees that as our industrial park". They're all of the same simple mind.

Anonymous said...

Call the superintendent of the National Park Service and ask her to make a statement to the city government. One of the reasons the NPS decided to locate a Park here was b/c the city agreed to retain the historic nature of the downtown. The phone # is 601-442-7047 and ask to be connected to the superintendents office. The National Park Service can be a voice that will speak behind the scenes if enough people ask them to. Not just Casey and Gwen!

Anonymous said...

If the property is private, you got two options purchase it yourself and don't develope it or let someone else purchase it and be subject to their plans, within reason. You can't restrict businesses that benefit natchez whether is adding new jobs, attracting tourist, or paying additional taxes. You can bet the aldermen and mayor are supporting business growth as it adds to the tax base and makes natchez more attractive to more business. If property is public then it should be subject to the wants, concerns and wishes of the public, not a few people in downtown natchez. The zoning in natchez is a mess and has been a mess for many years, but everyone with any sense has to know that in an effort to straighten it out officials will decide to benefit business, increase tax contributions, increase jobs, and help natchez as a whole and not to satisfy any one group of people. If you want to make a difference try working with the city government instead of against them and a lot more can be accomplished and negotiated rather than fighting everything, you know the city officials are ELECTED to run this city.

Anonymous said...

You can and must restrict businesses. That's why we have ordinances which dictate the where, and what. Do you want a "Dimples" next door to your house while you are trying to sleep for the next day's work? The lack of cooperation lies with the City. This City has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in good planning done over the last 20 years. The current City Council overlooks, defeats the efforts of many long years of work to retain one very important, revenue base: Tourism. For instance any, even minimally competent, planner knows tht you put your tallest buildings in the center of downtown and decrease the height of buildings as you go toward your focal point, our River view. The zoning in Natchez is a mess because these idiots on the City Council don't have a clue as to what they're doing. They simply aren't capapble of long-term planning. They got elected and that's just about it. They feel no obligation toward you, the voter, when it comes to doing what's best for this City. They squawk away, listen to themselves (chatting, giggling at the antics of her I-Mac during a meeting! give us a break Ms. Mathis.), puff out their chests while they cheat and lie their way to the end of their term. Then it's our turn to boot them out, every last one of them. The sooner the better. In the meanwhile we'd better be informed as to what they're trying to do behind that closed door of the City Council chambers (Read the Mississippi Open Meetings Act...another joke to them, I'm sure.) Defiance is the name of the game: from illegal sale of public property, defying the Att. General over demolition of landmarks, spot zoning, efforts to dismantle existing regulatory boards. So, "5/03/07" how do you responsibly work with this City Council? Let us know and if you have the answers we'd love to hear it. (And, I assure you some among us have tried.)

Anonymous said...


How about trying a little negotiating, give a little get a little. I can understand not everyone being happy with every decision all the time, but the people in office are the people in office and until another election you have to deal with what you got. Everyone complains but offers no reasonable alternative. So hypothetically if all the supervisors and aldermen, mayor whoever is replaced, won't people still conplain about the new officials. What halfway measures have been made. Its nothing but in-fighting and nothing is getting accomplished. What is the desired end result? satisfying every single person who objects to a decision, as someone will object to EVERY decision, its the curse of public service, or make the best moves for the city. I don't think the city has made all the right moves but neither has anyone else. Its not a perfect system and never will be, and i would bet everyone can find something every elected official has done that has irked them, but doesn it mean to refuse to negotiate on any matters. The last i checked the city of natchez isn't rolling in the green, as well as the economy. The economy is up but mostly from the trickle effects from a hurricane, which i don't think saying the economy is rebounding and will continue this way is a very safe gamble. I think looking at the situation from a different view may enlighten everyone involved. It doesn't take much effort to disagree, it takes effort to come to a comprimise. I'm not blaming you or any group but i know nothing can be accomplished if everyone involved refuses to find a common middle ground. Everone is so concerned about this individual project or that individual project and has no concern for the bigger picture, NATCHEZ. Do you want to improve the natchez economy, make departments profitable, increase taxes, increase population or decrease the base, decrease population, and hinder the economy. Its sink or swim, its impossible to do neither. I'm all about saving historic places and increasing tourism and making natchez the best historic destination on the map, but it can't be done just on what natchez has. Tourism numbers are decreasing over the past 15 - 20 years, once the baby boomer population passes you think natchez can survive on the tourism? you can complain about the public officials and aldermen and supervisors all you want, but in the end they make the decisions, if every citizen voted on every issue that goes before the boards you would have 15,000 different opinions. I think one problem is everyone thinks their opinion is the majority opinion, and it simply isn't, in all honesty most people are feed up with all the fighting, how do you thinks that looks to people who may want to move here?

Anonymous said...

Nicely said.

Anonymous said...

I can understand the frustration expressed in your (11:12) post. For so many years in this City, as in others I'm sure, economic, planning decisions have been made according to the whims of the current power broker...and not necessarily the Mayor or BOA. There is always someone behind the scenes manipulating the decision- making. There are trade-offs for those decisions and there you have the "negotiating" you refer to in your post? For instance, most recently a trade-off involved paying off debt of a councilman and it's common knowledge that's happened time and again. Yes,good things have happened in spite of the corruption and graft. Perhaps the appearance of "infighting" is actually an insistence that it's time to come clean. You state that alternative plans haven't been offered. That's not true! Great effort and expense have been invested in offering alternatives. You can also find the alternatives in a well-respected planning ordinance which has been overlooked, pushed aside in lieu of a current agenda. As far as the decline and eventual demise of tourism, I beg to differ. Generation X is very interested in the relics of our past. Boomers didn't invent the preservation model but they may be trying to perpetuate the idea. You've expressed concern about potential newcomers to our community. It's my understanding that those who've recently moved here are enthralled with the community activism. However, some industries, business interests, might be more cautious in their approach knowing that there's a group of concerned citizens who are willing to come forward to defend the sanctity of what is good about this place: our culture, our diversity, the preservation of our past...the good and the not-so-good. I don't know anyone who doesn't want development, economic growth, population growth but all that comes with a price and that price is hard work and an investment of time and thoughtfullness, on the part of city and community leaders..and private individuals who aren't willing to settle for corruption and illegality.

Anonymous said...

I agree the boomers didn't create the interest in historical and important history of natchez, but however they do represent a large portion of tourism dollars that flow into natchez. Gen "X"ers do have an interest but in my opinion they are not as interested as the older generation and the total number of gen "X"ers will be smaller in the future of current tourist are today. Tourism needs to be continued but revenue from tourism will most likely shrink do to the loss of Boomers over the next 10 to 20 years. Alternate forms of revenue must be explored to preserve natchez, the "well" isn't infinite. Regardless of past and current situations regarding the Mayor and Board of Aldermen, a happy medium MUST be met to ensure natchez a place in the future. Nobady wants a strip center along the bluff but the benefit of a park along the bluff isn't going to produce any income, with the exception of the people who visit for the view. A medium of the two above mentioned viewpoints would be both benefical and preserve the bluff top for public use. Would a restaurant with a view on the bluff top fall between either viewpoint? Would a ampitheater with concerts be benefical? Would an internet cafe benefit both sides? The city along with all concerned citizens should make suggestions to accomplish something along these lines. I understand frustration with city government but leading by example might be required on whichever side wants to step up and make POSITIVE change, belittle opposition doesn't accomplish anything and reflects negatively. As for the younger people in natchez most people who live here do enjoy it, it is a very unique place, however tell me where youg people can find a job with decent pay with a college degree? Law firms here don't pay enough compared to jackson and other surrounding areas, construction jobs are only available for labor jobs with no possibility of advancment, anyone with a engineering degree has to look in Baton Rouge, Memphis and Jackson for a job, Any one wanting to pursue a writing degree is stuck with the democrat, almost all businesses are family businesses with enough cash flow for a limited amount of employees. What successful businesses natchez has aren't growing and content with the amount of money that is being made. Natchez needs to cultivate the future, create jobs in certain sectors that natchez wants to expand, whether it is business or cultural, growth is the only alternative, lack of focus from city government and citizens only prolongs the eventual decline of great town. Oxford is a good example of cutural growth, obviously ole miss has helped tremendously. If you asked anyone familiar with natchez what makes it unique, they would say history or tourism, but history and tourism only directly provide jobs to those interested in history, refurbishing a house, or willing to sacrifice to guide tourist. While i agree it is very important to the economy currently it doesn't lend itself to the future success of natchez, jobs and new assets must either be acquired or created.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your comments. On the bluff? Well, I've often felt that perhaps some development along the Broadway street edge would be appropriate. But then, why not on the other side of Broadway? The bluff stabilization project left us with a 100ft. subterannean easement and a 50ft. surface easment which protects the integrity of the stabilization and the $30million investment. What could be more lovely than shops, restaurants, cottages, even condos, along the Eastern edge of Broadway? The patrons of those enterprises could then enjoy the view, a picnic, a stroll along that bluff. If we could create a two, or three square block of economic revitalization in that Madison/Broadway area ... facing a lovely public spanse of green along the river's edge I truly believe we could generate more tourism and city revenue. It's going to always be difficult to attract industry, business to Natchez because of our remote location but...those corporations are more likely to look and choose when we exhibit a sense of public consideration. After all, they would be installing their employees in this place. Education! That's a whole new discussion. I'm so pleased to hear your views, 11:29....that others are really thinking about the positive possibilities.

Anonymous said...

It can definately be accomplished but the solution can only be achieved through working together, not working against each other, regardless of how dispondant the other side my be. The location of natchez has played a huge part in its slow economic growth, however business is more and more accessable from remote locations. The internet makes business possible from ANYWHERE!!! Maybe Natchez needs to focus on building a large technology based business area that has things like internet connections that rival State universities, so as to promote a "Business from Anywhere" campaign. . . .then again that may be far beyond natchez capabilities.

gwen ball said...

Am I the only person upset about that Great Wall being constructed along Broadway? What happened to the original Conv. Ctr. Hotel design which was approved by the Preserv. Commission? (First it was Bauer, then Ruether; wanted it to be a Hilton but...) What about the height limitations which are to "preserve the character" of the area? The bldg. is now four stories high and according to a worker a two-story roof is next. Those of us who filed objection to the ht. changes for the condos thought we'd worked out a deal w/the City to preserve the ht. limitations of around 35ft. which is about the ht. of the Callon bldg. I walk the bluff almost daily. For the last few days I become ill, disgusted, and eventually so disheartened that I've sworn off walking along the bluff(it's hard to look the other way faced with the enormity of the thing..and SO OUT OF CHARACTER with the surrounding bldgs.) It's no longer "our bluff" "our river", "our lovely city" but belongs to the likes of those who's grand schemes are changing this "uncultured pearl" of a town into a personal financial opportunity for a select few...missed opportunties for the greater good of Natchez.

Anonymous said...

Yikes! I just read in paper this morning that Reuther wants to add lights and music to the fountain, fix up the bluff. Isn't it enough that they've gotten their way with the "wall"? They're idea of "adding something interesting to the bluff" will be Bourbon Street glitz and glam. I hope they don't let him loose on that bluff! And, yes, there are others who are amazed (as in offended) at the amazing wall!

Anonymous said...

financial opportunity? I agree people trying to make money should be illegal. Maybe we should throw all the business people in jail and let all the people who offer nothing as an alternative run the city. Great Idea, maybe we should make it illegal to try to make money in natchez, that will surely make things better! So sorry you are disgusted by progress, but what would you have liked to put there? Tell you what if you are so disgusted with the hotel, etc just stop diving on the roads that the tax dollars pay for and stop using the city utilities. Who are you to make a deal with the city do you represent the city for hotel company? If you don't like how things are being run why don't you run for office and when you don't get elected then you may realize that progress is going to continue with or without your objection