Tonight, at the recommendation of Walter Brown, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen voted to amend the City Charter to allow for the changes in the composition of the new Natchez Planning Commission as proposed in the new Development Code. No one opposes the new composition that I know of. Look for the amendment to appear in the paper (probably the Legal Section), since it must be published. I don't think anyone but Walter Brown has actually seen the wording.
In testimony at the hearing and in written comments submitted to the Planning Department, I suggested 6 changes for consideration. Since none of the changes were adopted or discussed at the recent meeting and since I don't think the members of the two Commissions had even seen my written comments, I mailed copies to all the members at their homes. Five of the changes I proposed are noncontroversial and are just common sense suggestions. However, one change is significant, and I reproduce for you below. Both Commissions (Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Adjustment) will be meeting together next week, and I hope they at least consider my recommendations.
Waterfront District 1 – Historic District
Uses By Right: Accessory Use or Structure, Antique Store, Art Gallery or Museum, Auditorium, Barber Shop or Beauty Shop, Casino, Condominium, Liquor Store, Museum, Planned Unit Development, General Restaurant, Signs, Specialty Retail Shop.
Uses By Exception: Bars or Nightclubs, Micro-Brewery (Brew Pub), Nightclubs, Offices other than medical, Residential Over Commercial, Resource Extractions
Waterfront District 2 – Not Historic District
The same except Condominiums are By Exception and Residential Over Commercial is not allowed.
This is the most troublesome part of the proposal.
To start with, it makes no sense to have the historic part of the Waterfront have less restrictions than the nonhistoric part.
Casinos, Condominiums, Liquor Stores, and Planned Unit Developments have no business being in our historic Waterfront District by Right. By Exception, fine, but definitely not by Right.
This is the only district with NO maximum lot coverage, and except for B3, the only district with no minimum yard requirements. This district is allowed a maximum building height of 75’, which is higher than all districts except B3 and I-1. This is ludicrous, since it can cut off all view of the river, our main attraction.
There is no planning vision reflected in these proposals. Is the whole waterfront going to taken up by wall to wall 75’ condominiums and casinos, as will be allowed by this proposal?
Waterfront District 2 could stay as in except to definitely include Residential Over Commercial either by Right or Exception.
However, Waterfront District 1 should NOT have Casinos, Condominiums, Planned Unit Developments, and Liquor Stores by Right. These uses must be by Exception. This is a precious historic area of our city that must be preserved. Anything less is a crime of immense proportions.
Most importantly, the maximum building height must be lowered to 35’, and there must be minimum yard requirements and maximum lot coverage. Without a view of the river, Natchez looses its major attraction.
It can be expected that our Mayor and Board of Aldermen may put these back in the new Development Code. However, for the Planning Commission, the Planning Director, and the Consultant to recommend it is totally unprofessional.
PS. These Commissions are not rubber stamp groups, and they are willing to voice their opinion. At the meeting last week, they had the wisdom and courage to deny Walter Tipton's request to have electronic signs at the Convention Center. Their reasoning was that the code could not just grant this right to the Convention Center - such a move would immediately be struck down by the courts. Then all businesses downtown would have the right to have electronic signs, and that would destroy the character of downtown. They did allow the signs away from the historic district. So Walter Tipton could put his signs at the Visitors Center, if he wanted. Special appreciation should be given to Ed Godfrey, Chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustments, who was brilliant in his arguments, and to Karen Stubbs, who was serving as Chair of the Planning Commission, who initially raised the issue and continued to pursue it.