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City board to hear Ergon appeal

Published 10:45 am Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen have set a June 2 hearing to determine if Ergon Refining gets a pass on having to landscape the parking lot for its new office complex.

Ergon is appealing a May 6 decision by the city Planning Commission concerning the refinery’s request for a variance to a section of the city building code requiring parking lots in the city to have parking islands and landscaping with trees.

The commission, meeting as the Board of Zoning Appeals, split 3-3 on Ergon’s request for the variance. The split vote shot the request down, forcing Ergon’s appeal.

Zoning administrator Dalton McCarty said Ergon had earlier presented a revised site plan that showed no landscaping on the parking lot to the city’s site plan committee, a six-member panel that reviews plans to ensure builders meet city ordinances and building and fire safety codes.

McCarty, a member of the committee, said Ergon sought a hardship ruling allowing the company to deviate from the code, claiming that following the codes would create a maintenance problem. He said the committee did not find a hardship existed.

He said the parking islands, which under the code are put at the end of the parking rows and be at least eight feet wide and have a curb at least six inches high, are designed to protect cars at the end of the parking rows and serve as planters for trees.

Ergon is building a new administration building and relocating several labs to a site outside the refinery to comply to with Occupational Health and Safety Administration regulations.

Kenneth Dillard, vice president for refining at Ergon, said the company will landscape the areas around the building, but trying to landscape the parking lot would be a difficult project, adding he did not believe the company would be able to properly maintain the plants in the parking islands.

Wayne Mansfield, excutive director of the Warren County Port Commission and city planner in 2007 when the ordinance to landscape parking lots was approved, said it was not compatible with Ergon’s expansion plans, adding there are no landscaped areas at any of the plants in the port area.

In another matter, the board reappointed Dorethea Gholson, Thurman Nelson Jr. and Dowin Shields to the Historic Preservation Commission, which also serves as the Vicksburg Architectural Review Board.