By JACK WEATHERLY
A proposed amendment to the Jackson zoning code that would have allowed commercial redevelopment in districts set aside for parks, golf courses, hospitals and churches across the city was removed from consideration Monday — to the applause of an overflow crowd at Jackson City Hall.
Members of about a half-dozen northeast Jackson neighborhood associations were in attendance to assert that developers who bought the Colonial Country Club, which closed last year, were trying to surreptitiously persuade the city government to change the zoning code for special-use districts.
Changing the code in that way would allow the development group, Colonial LLC, to skirt the transparency of applying for a zoning change, the opponents said.
Esther Ainsworth, zoning director, said the approach to amend the Special Use District ordinance had been universal — apparently meaning not just the former Colonial Country Club.
When Zoning Board committee member and City Council President De’Keither Stamps asked Ainsworth if she had notified “the entire city”she responded: “we did” and the room erupted in a loud: “No!”
She said that she had proof that the public notices had been published in the Mississippi Link, the low bidder for municipal legal ads.
Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote said the matter was brought up at a Jan. 28 meeting of the committee, then it was tabled till Feb. 25, but the developers said they could attend because of inclement weather.
The neighborhood associations said they were not apprised of the next meeting, which was on March 4, Foote said.
Members of the neighborhood associations had rallied Sunday afternoon at Trinity Presbyterian Church to develop a strategy to fight the proposed amendment at City Hall the next day.
Deputy City Clerk Lee Morris said at the Sunday meeting that advance public notice of the March 4 meeting was not published in the Mississippi Link.
Neighborhood association members got wind of that Planning Board committee meeting and tried to protest the proposed amendment to the city Special Use District ordinance.
The board told the association members that the proposal had nothing to do the Colonial Country Club, and that consequently they were not allowed to talk, Ken Adcock said, noting that he was not at that meeting.
Foote, whose Ward 1 encompasses the area, said after the Sunday gathering that there are “thousands” of acres across the city that would be affected, and that he feared the “longterm unintended consequences” of the zoning change
The 152 acres that were the country club are in the heart of generally upscale residential neighborhoods, including the Country Club of Jackson.
“What’s good in one area, might not be good another area,” Stamps said, suggesting that the controversial language be stricken from consideration. That elicited strong applause from the crowd.
Stamps had an ally in Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon, who urged removal of the language that would have allowed multi-use developments in Special Districts.
Ward 2 Councilman Melvin Priester Jr. suggested that the matter be tabled for further consideration, but Barrett-Simon said it would be better to excise the provision from any further consideration.
The committee ultimately did that through mutual consent and no voice vote and tabled the remaining proposed changes in the overall zoning ordinance.
Councilmen Kenneth Stokes of Ward 3 was absent. Councilmen Charles H. Tillman of Ward 5 and Tyrone Hendrix of Ward 6 were in attendance.
Stamps and Barrett-Simon had a “constituency” in several selected speakers for the associations.
Bert Green said he is a lifelong Jackson resident and has been a developer for more than three decades, told the crowd that his son, “30 years old, [and] all of his friends want to move back to Jackson. They can’t find anywhere to live . . . not the quality that they find in adjoining areas.
“That’s what we want to want to bring back rooftops back, we want to bring people back. It will . . . bring tax money. That’s the bottom line. We all know that.”
Kimberly Hilliard, who said she lives near the Colonial Country Club, said she and her neighbors want “responsible development.”
Of her neighborhood, she said: “We’re white, we’re black, we’re hispanic, we’re retired, we’re [young families]. We are a wonderful cross-section of Jackson.”
The Special Use District ordinance allows for hospitals and other medical facilities, golf courses, parks, playgrounds and other recreational uses, schools, libraries, churches and cemeteries.
Association members had negotiated with Colonial LLC, starting in late January, but, according to information provided at the Sunday meeting, the developers broke off talks, saying they wanted to reserve the right to do all-commercial development.
No representatives of the development group were at the Monday meeting.
Foote said at City Hall that in addition to publishing the required legal ads that the city website should have a prominent place on it for such meetings.
(This article has been changed from an earlier version to include the effort to table the proposed change at issue. It also includes other council members in attendance and absent.)
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