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Public meeting of planning board scheduled Nov. 20

Retail center at Old Canton-Pear Orchard roads faces opposition

JACKSON — If J. Walter Michel has his way, the property at the corner of Old Canton Road and Pear Orchard Road could soon become a retail shopping center.

Michel is buying the property subject to rezoning. The property is now zoned R-1 single-family residential, and Michel’s request is that it be rezoned as C-2 commercial.

Ron Hesselbein, whose wife Miriam owns the land, said that the property has changed a lot since 1986 when they purchased it. “That area is really growing,” Hesselbein said. “Walter mentioned the shopping center to me and I think that’s a good idea.”

Some people, however, don’t think rezoning the property as C-2 is such a good idea, including some 200 families in the area, according to G.H. Gordon, pastor of Pear Orchard Baptist Church.

“There’s no strip mall by (Michel’s) house, but he’s willing to put one by someone else’s,” Gordon said.

At a recent community meeting held by Pear Orchard Baptist Church, Gordon said no one was in favor of rezoning the property as C-2.

“There’s not enough room here to make it commercial,” Gordon said.

But Michel said there is. He plans to build a 12,000-square-foot brick shopping center on the one-and-a-half acre site.

“I think a nice neighborhood retail center would be the best use of that property,” Michel said. “And I think it’ll be the nicest thing up and down Old Canton Road.”

What’s more, Michel said, rezoning the property would bring more tax dollars into the city and county. In its current zoning, the property generates $508 per year in taxes. If rezoned to C-2 however, it would generate around $18,000-20,000 per year in tax dollars.

“That benefits the city, county and the school district,” Michel said.

Perhaps, but Bill Hardin, Jackson zoning administrator, said it will take much more than that to rezone the area from R-1 to C-2. Under state law in Mississippi, several requirements must be met before land is rezoned. For example, there has to be a significant change in the land use character of the area, meaning that other properties must have been rezoned from residential to commercial and then redeveloped. There must also be a public need for C-2 limited commercial developments.

“In my professional opinion he has not met the requirements under state law to rezone the property,” Hardin said.

This is the second time someone has attempted to rezone the property on the corner of Old Canton and Pear Orchard roads. The first attempt came in the early ‘80s to rezone the property from R-1 to R-3, and the rezoning was denied.

“I think that type of request would be more appropriate today based on the request for patio homes in Northeast Jackson,” Hardin said of a change from R-1 to R-3. “It’s highly unlikely that it will be used for single family R-1 homes.”

“I understand people are wanting to make money and that’s the bottom line for him,” Gordon said. “We’re just trying to prevent it from happening and we’re going to do what we can to prevent it.”

Michel said showing the members of the planning board the change in land use in the area is the challenge he faces.

“You’ve got a dramatic change in land use up and down Old Canton Road there,” Michel continued. He pointed out the changes in Old Canton Road as well, which has gone from a two-lane to a four-lane and now carries about 22,000 vehicles a day. “That’s a major artery in Northeast Jackson,” he said.

But Hardin doesn’t believe there has been a change in the land use character of the area since it was annexed in 1976.

Whatever happens will be up to the planning board and the city council,

and perhaps ultimately even the Supreme Court. A public hearing of the planning board on the matter will be held Nov. 20 at 1:30 p.m. in the Andrew Jackson conference room of the Warren Hood Building at 200 South President Street.

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.


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