2 churches say city rules holding up expansions

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 17, 2002

[09/17/02]Representatives of two Vicksburg churches said Monday that a new ordinance requiring landscaping in parking lots is holding up their expansions.

Spokesmen for Hawkins United Methodist Church, 3736 Halls Ferry, and Grove Street Baptist Church, 707 Pierce St., presented requests to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to waive the requirements.

Board members tabled both requests, but gave both churches authority to proceed with construction of new buildings, leaving the landscaping issue to be worked out.

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“We just haven’t got enough direction (from the city) yet,” said Vicksburg attorney Eugene Perrier, representing Hawkins.

The section of the amended ordinance requires any new parking lot with more than 10 spaces or over 2,500 square feet to have a 10-foot, landscaped buffer around the parking area between the lot and the city’s right-of-way. The code also requires 6 percent of a lot’s interior area to be landscaped.

The law, part of ongoing changes in signage and appearance codes designed to improve the city’s aesthetics, went into effect Aug. 16. It changed an existing section enacted in 1993 that applied only to lots that charged fees for parking. Representatives of both churches said they were already in the planning and design stage when the ordinance changed and were in the process of applying for the necessary permits when the problem came to the attention of city officials.

“This is the last portion we need before the bank can come in and finish our financing,” said Verdell Lewis, a deacon at Grove Street Baptist Church.

Ann Daigle, community planner for the city, said the designs she has seen for Hawkins already included landscaping, but that she has not seen the plans for Grove Street. She said that both should comply with the ordinance and asked the board not to grant the waiver.

“From what I saw, all they need to do is to put in some trees,” Daigle said.

The requirements increase with the size of parking areas. Larger areas such as the one planned for the Home Depot site on South Frontage Road will also be required to install permanent planting beds between every third row of parked cars.

In addition to improving appearance, the plantings will keep people from speeding through the center of the lots, Daigle said.

In other matters, the city board:

Awarded bids for storm sewer pipe and sewer pipe and castings.

Received bids for tree removal and for an automated video server system for TV 23.

Paid $1,440 for firefighter training at Hinds Community College.

Approved a request to close streets around the Old Court House on Oct. 4 and Oct. 5 for the Old Court House Flea Market.

Allocated $2,748 for advertising for Main Street.