Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Save the Natchez Waterfront - Continued

In November 1999, Natchez adopted a Comprehensive Plan, which is required by state law. And it was done the right way, by professionals utilizing an incredible array of data and research and with ample opportunity for public input. It is very well written and makes interesting reading. There is a copy available at the Library, and I recommend it to you. In the Introduction, there is a wonderful statement, which they bolded for emphasis:

A community desperate for development without regard to the quality of that development will not be able to successfully compete with communities that are more concerned with the quality of development and other quality of life issues.

Does this make you think of our Mayor and Board of Aldermen?

After establishing Goals, Objectives, Policies, and Principles, the Plan then lays out a Land Use Plan, complete with map. By state law, all zoning decisions must be based upon the adopted Land Use Plan, as well as the policies outlined in the Comprehensive Plan. So far as I know, the Comprehensive Plan adopted in 1999 has not been amended. Therefore, the proposed Development Code must be based upon the Plan. But is it?

The map of the Land Use Plan is large, and I could not copy it all. However, I did copy one section.

The red line sticking into the river is the bridge, which is the southern boundary of Waterfront District 1 (WD1). The red line that veers off to the right is Canal Street. The street above that is Broadway, which is the eastern boundary of WD1. The river is of course the western boundary. If you follow Canal Street you'll see two small red rectangles. Right on the other side is Madison Street, which is the northern boundary of WD1.

Two interesting things about WD1 on this map.

First, it's a little hard to see, but there are 3 shades of green on the map designated for Parks: the darkest (not in WD1) is for public parks, the light green is the National Historic Park, and the middle shade is for parks and open space. I didn't see any mention of open space in the proposed Development Code.

Secondly, the rest of WD1 is pink, as is most of the downtown area. These are the Preservation Districts. This designation is to protect the architectural and historic integrity of Natchez. Two of these districts are in WD1, and this is what is said about these two districts in the Plan.

  1. Natchez on Top of the Hill Historic District. Mixed Use by Right: Single family detached residential with "indoor only" commercial uses. Uses by Exception: farmer's market stalls, single family residential uses upstairs above commercial uses on the first floor, single family residential units on the first floor with street frontage, and multiple family uses. Compare this list of rights and exceptions to the one in the proposed Development Code (see my previous article).
  2. Natchez Bluffs and Under the Hill Historic District. "Indoor only" commercial uses only by Right. Uses by Exception: multiple family residential. Single family detached residential use is not permitted by Right or by Exception.

Just to make matters worse, look at the Waterfront District 2 (WD2), which is south of the bridge. This area is red, which is General Commercial. Now compare that to the proposed Development Code, which is more or less like WD1, only more restrictive. (Why in the world is the historic waterfront district less restrictive than the non historic???)

I don't know about you, but I think the 1999 Comprehensive Plan did a very good job, and I only wish our proposed Development Code matched it. I know the law says it has to, but this is Natchez where the law doesn't seem to matter. If the Mayor and Board of Aldermen adopt the proposed Development Code, I predict some lawyers will be very busy.

UPDATE: One of my lovely friends has provided me with a copy of the 1999 Comprehensive Plan and the map that goes with it. Since files cannot be attached to blogs, I have posted them on my website.

UPDATE 2: The Planning Commission met tonight. The good news is that final implementation will be delayed. They will make recommendations to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen at their first June meeting, with the suggestion that their final approval come during the second meeting in June. The code would then go into effect on August 1. The most interesting news came via Walter Brown, who said the City Charter (basically it's constitution) would have to be amended before the Code could go into effect. This requires at least a 60 day delay. I have a copy of the final draft, and I will write more later. There will be an article in the Natchez Democrat Friday morning detailing some of the discussions.


Anonymous said...

Our Current OFFICIAL "Comprehensive City Plan" is the "1999 Comprehensive City Plan" adopted in Nov of 1999 by the BOA. After the plan was adopted, the next step was to revised the Zoning Code to be in sync with the plan. This never happened.

It took FIVE YEARS to create the 1999 plan. As is required by state law, there was a series of public hearings, etc.

The Plan was prepared by the Central Mississipping Planning and Development District. The chief planner was Larry Smith (with CMPDD based in Jackson).

Mayor Butch Brown initiated the planning process with planners James Shelby and later David Preziosi. But under Mayor Hank Smith, the BOA succeeded in "ignoring" or "shelving" the plan because finally they had a mayor who agreed wtih them: Planning is the enemy of Progress. In frustration, planner David Preziosi resigned. I don't think Natchez has had a qualified city planner since Preziosi.

So, that was five years of work and public monies down the drain. The plan has been ignored from 1999 to 2007.

You can get a copy of the actual "Plan" in the city planner's office. Copies are $25. Or you can contact CMPDD in Jackson to purchase a copy. Or you can download it from Casey's website.

State law requires that Zoning Codes be in sync with the Comprehensive City Plan.

Technically, every zoning decision made since 1999 that is not in agreement with the plan are in violation of State Law.

Anonymous said...

QUESTION: When is Natchez going to ever jsut do what is right?

Anonymous said...

keep up the good work.