Only 6 show up for first zoning change hearing

Published 9:55 am Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Questions about zoning in Vicksburg’s historic district, correcting errors and whether a mobile home subdivision would be allowed, occupied the time at the first of three public hearings held by the Vicksburg Planning Commission on a draft of the city’s new proposed zoning ordinance.

However, only six people attended the hearing on proposed zoning changes.

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“The purpose of this meeting is not to pass anything,” Planning Commission chairman David Sessums said. “Simply to give the public a fair opportunity to come here and comment on or ask any questions or press any concerns they might have over it.”

Two other hearings are planned for Wednesday and Thursday at the City Hall Annex.

The small group turned out Monday night to discuss the proposed regulations for the North Washington, Haining Road Industrial, Martin Luther King and the Downtown Historic districts. The districts are four of the 12 neighborhood districts outlined in the city’s new comprehensive plan approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in 2015.

“What we’ve done, we’re updating your existing zoning ordinance and we’re also making this in compliance with your comprehensive plan, which was adopted last year,” said William Peacock with Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, which is working with the city on the new regulations.

“The zoning ordinances correspond to the 12 neighborhood districts, and they are basically an overlay and they represent the neighborhoods. Each of those neighborhood districts have zoning districts within those neighborhoods, so everything is covered,” he said.

“The reason is each of those communities is distinct, each and of themselves. We wanted to make sure we could craft zoning regulations to help those neighborhoods remain distinct. We have included a zoning map of each of those districts in the ordinance text itself.”

Community Development Director Victor Grey-Lewis said the city has also been working on a site plan and plat review committee, which was not on the old ordinance, and created an architectural review ordinance.

Commission member Dr. Robert Clingan asked about correcting errors in the new ordinance, telling Grey-Lewis he found a piece of property on Washington Street zoned residential in a commercial zone that has a commercial building.

Grey-Lewis told him to give him the location to correct it.

“It could be an oversight while we were preparing the maps,” he said. “That’s the purpose of the hearings, to bring those issues out, and we will note that. At the end of this process, we will be coming with a third draft and have all those corrections made. And come back later for the commission’s approval and recommend it to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.”

Nancy Bell, executive director of the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, questioned the need to divide the city into 12 neighborhoods, calling them “randomly drawn,” adding the district lines sometimes split areas into different districts, which will have different zoning rules under the proposed ordinance.

Bell was also concerned over the zoning for the Downtown Historic District.

“The proposed use for the new district is mixed use residential and commercial,” she said.

While the present zoning regulations spell out residential and commercial areas, she said, the new mixed use residential and commercial zone  anywhere in the historic district means many commercial businesses like convenience stores, hotels, offices, auto repair shops, and other uses.

“There are certain areas in the historic district that are zoned for these uses, but they are not single family neighborhoods and those neighborhoods should be preserved,” adding people who buy homes in the residential areas of the district “expect there won’t be a convenience store built next to it.

“Uses in the historic district need to be what you see on the current map, not on the new map,” Bell said. “Limiting uses within those areas protects those neighborhoods.”

Bell, who lives in the Martin Luther King area, said she was also concerned about provisions allowing mobile homes in an area called “estate residential areas.”

“Why are we allowing mobile homes in an area where there are no mobile homes? … This neighborhood is established,” she said.

Concerning mobile homes, commission member Tommy Rawlings asked Grey-Lewis if there would be mobile home subdivisions with curb and gutters, Grey-Lewis said some mobile home districts are included in the regulations.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the 227-page comprehensive plan in March 2015.

The plan draws on information developed from reports in the 1990s and the results of an Oct. 22, 2014, city planning forum to provide information on the city’s direction.

The main elements of the new plan are similar to the city’s 1996 plan, and examine goals and objectives, land use plan, transportation plan and a community facilities plan.

The results of the Oct. 22 planning forum, where local civic and business leaders were asked to comment on different issues using a remote voting device, were combined with the results of city-sponsored studies done in 1993 to help develop the goals in the new plan.

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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