Comment period on urban renewal extended

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 7, 2002

[03/07/02]The comment and question period for the Vicksburg’s urban revitalization plan has been extended another week, and city officials say they will read and answer questions during a televised board meeting.

The new deadline for receiving questions is 10 a.m. March 15. The Mayor and Aldermen will then respond to as many questions as possible at the following board meeting, at 10 a.m. on March 18, while the meeting is shown on cable Channel 23.

“It’s just a lot of people are frustrated by the process,” Mayor Laurence Leyens said. “So we decided that people who have specific questions should have a right to have them answered.”

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Last week’s public hearing, conducted by city consultant Jimmy Gouras, limited the public to 3-minute statements with no questions allowed.

Some of the 80 people present protested those limitations before and during the session. While most of the comments were in favor of the $5.6 million project under the state urban renewal law, some business owners said city officials need to get more information to the public.

Under Mississippi law, a city can declare an urban renewal zone and acquire property in that zone identified as “slum” or “blight” for redevelopment. A detailed plan that identifies 48 properties the city plans to acquire and 20 businesses to be moved over the next 10 years is available at the City Clerk’s Office in City Hall.

Downtown plans include most of Washington Street between Depot and First East streets and most of the area between Washington Street and the Mississippi River. Leyens owns four properties in the area, but those were all specifically carved out to meet state conflict-of-interest criteria.

The city plans to purchase properties in the urban renewal zone that do not meet city ordinances or for other development. The properties will then be restored by the city and sold for private development or sold to developers under contract to restore the property.

The city will pay the cost to move businesses under the plan.

Leyens said the board may take action to approve the plan during the March 18 meeting.