Residents say leave Marion Park neighborhood aloneCity planner meets with 32 before charrette

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 23, 2002

Community planner Ann Daigle jots down concerns by Marion Park residents as Burford Page, second from right in cap, makes a point about traffic on Cain Ridge Road. (The Vicksburg Post/Melanie Duncan)

[09/22/02]Residents along Cain Ridge Road and in nearby Marion Park subdivision say they like their neighborhood and don’t want to see a lot of changes come out of the city’s upcoming charrette.

“We like it the way it is,” said Marion Park homeowner Olivia Lee. “We want it to stay a neighborhood.”

About 32 residents turned out Saturday morning to meet with Vicksburg’s community planner, Ann Daigle, and learn more about the series of planning sessions that begin in three weeks. Residents expressed concerns about speeding on Cain Ridge Road and development along U.S. 61 South, but said they like their quiet part of town that has changed little since it was developed 40 years ago.

U.S. 61 South, which currently is seeing some industrial construction, abuts the subdivision, and some residents said they would like a say in how that area develops.

“When my property value diminishes because of something within eyesight of my house, then everyone’s property value diminishes,” said Mary Fagerburg.

City officials say that is precisely the point of the charrette to bring residents together with designers and planners who can hear concerns and create a set of zoning regulations unique to each neighborhood.

Daigle, the driving force in the city administration behind the charrette and the new SmartCode, is meeting with different neighborhoods over the next two weeks in an attempt to drum up community participation in the planning sessions.

At the previous charrette, in April, which focused on commercial areas, city officials expressed disappointment at the lack of participation.

“This is your opportunity to make a difference,” Daigle said. “And it’s your only opportunity because once that code’s in place, that’s it.”

The charrette will kick off at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Vicksburg Convention Center and will focus on residential neighborhoods. The new codes, which will have to be adopted by the city board and are not expected to affect any current businesses, will emphasize public places, landscaping and pedestrians.

Issues that will be looked at include streets, neighborhood design, sidewalks and potential locations for parks or small shops. But, some residents expressed concern over allowing homeowners to operate businesses out of the houses, something not allowed under current city zoning regulations.

“Who makes that decision?” asked Phil Gee, a Marion Park resident and engineer who does contract work for the city.

“You do,” Daigle said.

Other issues that will be looked at during the charrette include regulations such as codes that forbid parking cars in front yards, something with which Marion Park resident Betty Harper said the city should not be concerned.

“When you get into something like that, I’m going to speak up. That’s none of the city’s business,” Harper said.

She also said one reason why people may not have participated in the previous charrette is because they do not feel City Hall listens to their concerns, citing the recent decision to purchase 96-gallon garbage containers that many say are too large and cumbersome for older residents.

“If you want the community involved, then by-golly listen to us,” Harper said.

Fagerburg also expressed concerns that the new codes will be only as good as the term of the current city administration, now into its second of four years.

“(Mayor) Laurence (Leyens) has already stepped on enough toes that he’s not going to be re-elected,” Fagerburg said.

The codes will be the first major revision to the city’s current zoning laws, written in 1971. Some adjustments were made in 1996 to accommodate areas annexed in 1990.