On back burner

Gating ordinance on hold until new administration in place

Jackson’s gating ordinance will remain in limbo likely until after the city’s new mayor and council take office.

The council’s rules committee was expected to vote out proposed changes to the city’s public access gate ordinance last month. However, new amendments were introduced at the last minute and all changes were tabled.

Ward Two Councilman Melvin Priester, the committee’s co-chair, doesn’t expect the matter to be brought up again at least until after all new city officials are sworn in.

“It’s sort of been on the back burner with the election,” he said.

Priester, who was elected to a second term, believes priorities now include signing off on the $90 million bond to help pay for North State Street and West County Line Road. However, he believes most larger items will not be taken up until after Mayor-elect Chokwe Lumumba and the new council are officially seated.

“There are going to be some issues we’ll address, such as dealing with day-to-day operations that won’t have an impact on the new mayor. We’ll be more cautious on things that will have a major impact on the next administration.”

Lumumba, who won the Democratic primary on May 2, will face Republican and independent challengers in the general race, but will likely go on to be the next mayor.

New terms begin on July 3, according to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Web site.    

The gating ordinance has been in limbo for months.

Last year, the council expanded city code to allow all neighborhoods to have access to the devices. Previously, only subdivisions with one entrance were eligible.

The council put the ordinance on temporary hiatus in October, though, after being approached by city legal. Among concerns, legal said the code did not include “due process” for those opposed to devices.

 

Public access gates are erected along streets and serve to calm traffic. Unlike private gates, which require a code or key, public devices open when motorists drive up. 

The devices have become popular on the Northside as a means to reduce crime. Since the ordinance was expanded last year, several neighborhoods have applied for gates, but few have been approved.

For months, Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote worked with the legal and planning departments to draw up amendments to the ordinance, which he expected to have passed out in the April commission meeting.

However, at the same meeting Foote’s changes were to be considered, new changes were introduced by Ward Seven Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon.

No council members had seen her proposals prior to them being introduced.

The outgoing councilwoman’s amendments, among other things, would strictly define neighborhood boundaries as a subdivision’s original plats and limit the placement of gates to established intersections.

Her proposal would kill several homeowners groups’ plans to install the devices, among them, the Woodland Hills Conservation Association (WHCA).

The association has petitioned the city to install the gates at Glenway Drive and Old Canton Road, and at Ridge Drive where it splits from Wood Dale Drive. Three houses considered part of the Woodland Hills area would be sitting outside the Ridge gate.

“The fact that you have people in areas right now, in a platted subdivision, being excluded and not included, gives me great pause,” Barrett-Simon said at the time. “I believe this is where we begin to ensure this does not happen.”

WHCA has argued that the association is unable to install the gate at Ridge and Old Canton because it would require hundreds more homeowners outside of the neighborhood to sign on in support.

Under both Foote’s and Barrett-Simon’s changes, 75 percent of property owners in an affected area would have to sign on.

Ridge and Wood Dale Drive serve hundreds of residents outside of the Woodland Hills community, all of whom would be impacted if a gate were placed at the Old Canton and Ridge site.

 

Foote planned to meet with Barrett-Simon, as well as Planning Director Eric Jefferson and Deputy City Attorney Dana Sims, but decided not to, after Barrett-Simon came to the meeting with two attorneys representing gating opponents.

“I wasn’t comfortable going in there without having legal representation (for the supporters),” he said. “This was not fair for one side to have attorneys and my side not to,” he said.

He did not know what was discussed at the meeting. Barrett-Simon couldn’t be reached for comment.

 

 

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