Comprehensive plan is complete, but still can be tweaked

Published 11:27 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Comprehensive Plan completed by Patricia Brantley of Neel-Schaffer Inc. has been presented to Picayune’s city council.

Brantley said the plan includes ways for the city to conduct planned growth and development in a coordinated environment.

The process to come to the final draft of the plan involved a preliminary plan based off of public comment periods and public hearings. Chapters in the plan focus on different aspects the city could utilize to move forward, such as land use, goals and objectives and future land use. Brantley said the land use mentioned in the plan is not to be confused with zoning.

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Each neighborhood has it’s own characteristics and those unique aspects should be taken into consideration when future development takes place. Some things Brantley said should be taken into consideration include small business areas with shops located within walking distance and residential areas that might suffer from commercial encroachment. Maintaining the walking distance shopping areas, such as those found in the Main Street area, are vital to small businesses.

One thing to avoid is commercial encroachment. Commercial encroachment takes place when businesses begin to move into residential areas causing those areas to degrade. Degradation begins as homeowners move from those residences and either rent the homes out or sell them to buyers who rent them out. Renters traditionally do not care for a home in the same manner the owner would, she said. Brantley said such encroachment could cause a ripple effect forcing the whole area go into decline.

There are areas where mixed use is beneficial. Commercial construction planned for mixed use areas should take into consideration the existing character of the area. This would involve avoiding metal building frontage and instead use exteriors that match what is there.

During development, consideration should be given to minimize pollution, and not just with industrial pollution but also noise and flooding. Building in flood plains is usually not a wise decision, Brantley said.

To further communication between neighborhoods and the local government, each neighborhood could form associations. Networks of associations could enable strong communication lines between local authorities and the public, Brantley said. Codes set forth by an association would further protect the character of each neighborhood.

An example of keeping the character of an area is the planned renewal of East Canal Street. The addition and reconstruction of sidewalks and the new overlay will bring that area back to it’s original status as a gateway into downtown, Brantley said. Other improvements planned in the work will be lighting, signs and other beautification efforts.

There are unused areas in the city that could be used for some kind of development, such as the 200-plus acres behind city hall and the superfund site where Picayune Wood Treating previously operated. Those areas, provided they do not contain hazardous substances, could be used for residential or recreation needs.

“If it’s done right, you can do almost anything,” Brantley said. “It’s got a lot of possibilities.”

While residential applications would most likely be ruled out for the superfund site, Brantley said there may be areas behind city hall that could be used for that purpose, if an environmental check came back clean. One use for the superfund site could be to build a community center that could provide children with a public computer lab.

The city also needs some focus on providing more recreational activities for the youth, in addition to baseball, softball and other sporting activities. Brantley said a public swimming pool, fitness center or a skate park could help provide recreation for children not interested in sports.

“That is something that should be on a long term list,” Brantley said.

A copy of the Comprehensive Plan is available for review at the Margaret Reed Crosby Memorial Library on Goodyear Boulevard.