Council votes no to zoning change

Published 4:30 pm Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Picayune’s city council members upheld the recommendation of the Planning Commission as they declined to change the zoning of an area adjacent to Interstate 59.

A 45 acre plot planned to be developed near Orleans Avenue has met with great resistance from the residents in the adjacent neighborhood. Picayune’s Planning Commission sent a recommendation to the city council to deny a request from John McKean to change zoning from R-1 single family residential and A-1 agricultural to C-3 Highway Commercial. The property is located between Orleans Boulevard and Interstate 59.

Brooks Wallace with Dungan Engineering approached the council, after they had a motion and second to accept the Planning Commission’s recommendation and asked for discussion, to request that the rezoning request be sent back to the Planning Commission for further discussion between the residents, the land owner and the developer. Wallace said he wanted to get a conceptual drawing compiled so residents’ concerns could be addressed.

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Council member Leavern Guy agreed with sending it back to the planning commission so the residents and the neighbors could discuss the matter further.

“We want to have a smart growth type growth. We don’t want to just impose on the neighbors like that,” Guy said.

Part of the residential opposition stemmed from their concern that access to the new commercial area would come through the residential area, creating a hazard for children and families that live there.

Larry Watkins also wanted the residents to listen to a presentation from the developer to see what is actually planned.

“I would love to know what is actually going to take place before a (council) vote takes place,” Watkins said.

Resident Johnny Baker said he is concerned about a motel coming into the area since there is a motel already across the street, where he says drug users are taken out of regularly.

“We’re just here to make sure you know how we feel,” resident Harold Blabpert said.

Concerned resident Sandra Webb said she and the rest of the concerned residents do not want to see the zoning of the area changed, there are many other areas in the city that could be used for commercial development.

Developing the property is futher compounded because it contains wetlands. Houses could not be built in there in the past but now there is the prospect of commercial development, said resident Michelle Berdeux.

“It’s really funny how when it’s business , business commercial, all the sudden they can build stuff in there,” Berdeux said.

After more deliberation from residents and council members, the council grouped together for a moment to talk among themselves on how to proceed. When they finished their discussion, they followed approved initial motion to accept the Planning Commission’s recommendation to deny the zoning change request. The crowd cheered and clapped following the vote.

Council members said the same property could be rezoned later, either a year later under the same conditions or even earlier if the conditions for rezoning are changed. The same procedures would have to be followed, such as holding a public hearing and Planning Commission deliberation, said city attorney Nathan Farmer.

A request came from Berrywood estates for the final subdivision plat approval for phase III by the council that was not ready for their deliberation. Mayor Greg Mitchell expressed his dissatisfaction since this was the second request in a month to come to the council that was not ready for the council’s decision. He asked that it not happen again.

The council later went into executive session to discuss contractual matters with Kanduit Construction, the animal shelter, Mississippi Development Authority and Allen and Hoshall. The council also discussed the possible purchase sale of land. When they came out of executive session, they approved the no-cost change order for construction of the helicopter pads at the airport with Kanduit Construction, approved increasing monthly payments to the animal shelter by 30 percent to a total of about $3,300, moved the matter with MDA to the next council meeting, and approved an airport layout contract with Allen and Hoshall. On the land sale, the council approved the appraisal of land in the Industrial park for potential sale and denied the sale of a plat of land near Bruce Street.

In other matters the council:

— Reappointed Melvin Hicks and Willie Eubanks as city Planning Commissioners and appointed Hicks as Chairperson.

— Set a public hearing for property clean up for Sept. 18.

— Tabled setting a public hearing for the clean up of Stone Treated Materials as per Farmer’s recommendation.

— Approved a change order for a Federal Emergency Management Agency waste treatment repairs to four lift stations at a cost of $1.26 million with a 100 percent grant from the agency.

The council meets again at 4 p.m. Tuesday Sept. 4.