City sets six days of meetings to design growth

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 29, 2002

[04/28/02]City officials will kick off a six-day planning session Monday that invites all residents to help design a blueprint for Vicksburg’s growth during the next 10 years.

“It relies on people coming in and telling us what they want the rules to be,” Mayor Laurence Leyens said.

City organizers are calling the meetings a “charrette,” a French word meaning “little cart.”

Ann Daigle, the city’s community planner, said design experts including transportation engineers, architects and city planners will take information from residents to come up with new zoning codes for the city.

A draft proposal of new zoning ordinance shelved for three years will be put aside in favor of the new code to come out of the charrette.

A citizen advisory committee worked with the city’s planning department for more than a year developing the proposed new zoning ordinance. It was put on hold after the city’s zoning official left the city.

“What the charrette is all about is just an opportunity for everybody to come to the table and talk and decide where Vicksburg is going,” Daigle said.

Sessions this week, Phase I of the charrette, will focus on major corridors Clay, Washington, Mission 66 and North and South Frontage roads. Phase II will focus on residential neighborhoods and is expected to commence in six months, Daigle said.

A big part of the charrette will be writing a new SmartCode that will eventually replace the city’s current zoning ordinance.

SmartCode is a regulatory code that reduces the effect of urban sprawl, the spreading out of a community over a larger area. She said Vicksburg has spread to the south and east and away from older parts of town.

The result is that people have to drive farther to get to work, restaurants or shopping.

Daigle said is the main question people will be asked is, “Do you want to continue to grow like that or do you prefer the way it used to be?'”

The idea behind the new zoning code is to design neighborhoods within walking distance of shopping areas and other amenities much like the older parts of Vicksburg around downtown, Daigle said.

She said the code officials hope to develop will encourage redevelopment in older parts of town and control new development based on residents’ input.

During the meetings, experts will present ideas using renderings and drawing of how Vicksburg could look based on a SmartCode.

Leyens said that one reason it is important that people participate is because the new code will affect what the city will look like in the next 10 years.

“The people in Kings should have a voice in what Business 61 should look like,” Leyens said.

Each day of the charrette will conclude with a public presentation and comment period at 5:30 p.m. at the convention center. A final public presentation and gala is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday.

The entire program will be videotaped and aired on the city’s cable Channel 23. The cost of phase I and phase II of the charrette is about $250,000.

Following the charrette, designers and experts will create the new codes based on public participation and present the final version within 90 days. It will be up to the city board to adopt the codes.

“It affects the city in the long term, but it doesn’t mean people will have to change things now necessarily,” Daigle said.

She said the lasting impact of the SmartCode probably will not be seen in Vicksburg for 10 to 20 years.

The city’s current zoning laws were created in 1971. Some adjustments were made in 1996 to accommodate the areas annexed into the city in 1990.