Archives agenda rejects Natchez condo plan

Published 9:51 pm Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Mississippi historic preservation agency has denied a permit to a developer wanting to put condominiums up on the site of a former pecan factory in Natchez.

The board of trustees for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History made the decision Thursday.

In April, the MDAH permit committee recommended approval if developer Worley-Brown Inc. met several conditions, including an architectural study and a geotechnical survey attesting to the safety and stability of the site.

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The developers submitted the geotechnical study in August. The MDAH board was not convinced the study showed the site safe for the development.

“We’ve done all we or anyone can do to ensure the safety of the site,” attorney Tim Waycaster, who represented the developers, told the board.

James Bobo, representing a group of Natchez residents opposed to the development, said there was a question of the bluffs’ stability.

The condominium complex would be multistory and incorporate a swimming pool.

The site was designated a Mississippi landmark, and although the building was torn down in February, the designation still applies to the land, board chairman William Winter said.

David Dockery of the Mississippi Office of Geology said because plans call for the condominiums to be so close to the edge of the bluff, 55 feet from the edge, there is a potential to destabilize the bluff, he said.

The condominiums would be acceptable if they were built exactly to the proposed plans, he said.

“Nobody can guarantee that,” he said.

Eddie Templeton, a geological consultant for Jackson firm Burns Cooley Dennis, Inc., said with a bluff stabilization project, the proposed buildings posed little risk of a collapse.

“Nobody else who wants to build along the bluff has gone to these extremes,” he said.

Board members said they would meet again in October to approve an official document detailing the reason for their decision to reject the permit.

Worley-Brown partner Larry Brown said that the developers would wait until the October document was approved before considering an appeal.

MDAH attorney Harold Pizzetta said the proper venue for appeal would likely be the Hinds County Circuit Court.

The decision did not rule out anyone seeking permits for other developments on the property, Pizzetta said.

A lawsuit on, among other things, whether or not the city acted inappropriately when it sold the land for less than its appraised value is pending before the Mississippi Supreme Court.