Comprehensive plan presented to zoning board

Published 9:13 am Friday, January 9, 2015

A new, 227-page comprehensive plan for the City of Vicksburg that is expected to serve as the city’s long-range planning guide for growth and development over the next 25 years draws on information developed from reports in the 1990s and a recent city planning forum to provide information on the city’s direction, Community Development Director Victor Gray-Lewis said.

Gray-Lewis and William Peacock with Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, which prepared the plan, presented a draft of the document to the Vicksburg Planning Commission Tuesday. The commissioners took no action on the plan, which Gray-Lewis said was well received.

The plan includes a breakdown of the plans supplemented with artwork to give readers an idea of what can be done to improve the city.

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“The last comprehensive plan approved was in 1996,” he said. “There’s been a lot of different changes, a lot different mayors, a lot of different ideas.”

The elements of the new plan, he said, are basically the same at the 1996 plan, and examine goals and objectives, land use plan, transportation plan and a community facilities plan.

To develop those goals, he said, the results of the Oct. 22 planning forum, where local civic and business leaders were asked to comment on different issues using a remove voting device, were combined with the results of city-sponsored studies done in 1993.

“Some of the ideas that came from those studies still apply today,” Gray-Lewis said. “Some of those have already been met, like the Southern Cultural Heritage Center and the Depot Museum downtown. That’s been done, that was proposed.”

“What makes this plan different from the ‘96 plan, and other plans that might have preceded it,” he said, “is the neighborhood concept. The neighborhood plan is an idea that started back in the (Laurence) Leyens administration.”

The neighborhood plan divided the city into 12 different neighborhood districts based on each neighborhood’s individual characteristics such as architecture, land use, topography and other issues. It provides recommendations that use the neighborhood characteristics to improve it and the city.

“This is not a master plan for neighborhoods,” he said. “It is a guide to what they can do.

“You look at each district and determine what is the general theme, what is the unified theme in that district, what seems to be the normal set backs for the districts, (and) maintain the integrity of what’s there,” he said.

To help the integrity of the neighborhoods and the city in general, he has recommended an architectural review ordinance and the establishment of an architectural review board.

The new board is different from the city’s Board of Architectural Review, which issues involving historic preservation of buildings in the city’s historic districts.

He said the new board would be citywide to ensure the architecture of new buildings or changes to existing buildings blends in with the neighborhood’s existing architecture. “This is proposed for commercial, industrial and multi-family buildings,” he said.

Among the other ideas in the ‘93 study were gateways at different entrances to the city and the waterfront, a siege museum and scenic and historic trails and bicycle paths through the city.

The walking trails, he said, are being planned, adding he was meeting with Vicksburg National Military Park Superintendent Mike Maddell to discuss a federal grant the city is seeking to develop the trails.

“We’re also working on a bike trail,” he said.

Another item discussed in studies and the comprehensive plan is downtown development, including a pavilion for the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market, a project Mayor George Flaggs Jr. has promoted as a site for presenting programs when the market is not in session.

“The gateway concept to welcome visitors takes advantage of the city’s relationship with the Mississippi River,” Gray-Lewis said. “Three gateways were initially recommended, but we’ve added a fourth. North Washington Street has become a major avenue, that included a gateway for it.”

The other three are the old U.S. 80 bridge, Clay Street, and the waterfront.

Gray-Lewis said the triangle formed by the bridge, downtown and Clay Street gateways was recommended in the 1993 study as a scenic area with a green area containing walkways, bike paths and a scenic boulevard.

“They still apply today,” he said.

The plan also discusses a river walk along the Mississippi River featuring observation sites and retail shops, starting a Diamond Jack’s Casino and going south along the river under the bridges to Riverwalk Casino.

“I like what we have,” he said. “This is a good plan to move the city forward. It has good ideas, and many of those ideas are already underway.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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