Barrett-Simon wants tougher requirements for getting gates

Jackson neighborhoods could have a tougher time getting public access gates if Ward Seven Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon’s amendments to the city’s gating ordinance go through.

The council’s rules committee was expected to vote out changes to the gating ordinance last week, but did not, after the outgoing councilwoman introduced her own set of amendments to the code.

Her changes were introduced without notice, and other council members had not seen them prior to the meeting. 

Barrett-Simon’s amendments would, among other things, strictly define neighborhood boundaries, limit the placement of gates to intersections, and effectively require applicants seeking gates to obtain support from a larger number of home and property owners than the current ordinance requires.

Several homeowners groups believe the longtime councilwoman’s changes would preclude their neighborhoods from applying for the devices. 

In a statement from multiple associations, neighbors say her changes “would prohibit all of the homeowners’ associations currently interested in gating (to have) the ability to apply for public access gates.”

Several groups are seeking gates, including North Lake, Eastover, Woodland Hills, the Villages of Northpointe and Heatherwood.

Barrett-Simon argues her changes were needed, because the ordinance, as it was, had been written with specific subdivisions in mind.

The initial amendments were drawn up by Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote, who had been working on the ordinance, alongside city legal and the planning and development department. His changes were sent to the rules committee in March.

The city updated its public access gating ordinance in 2015, allowing all neighborhoods the ability to install them. However, the city quit taking applications because the ordinance did not give opponents to the gates “due process.”

“This is not an ordinance for a particular neighborhood. This is a city of Jackson ordinance,” she said.

Barrett-Simon’s modifications include requiring applicants to obtain signatures or support from 75 percent of property owners in the platted subdivision, rather than in the affected area. This could mean applicants would have to obtain support from tens to hundreds of more property owners than current ordinacne requires before the city would even consider gates for an area.

Her amendments also would require the gates to be installed at intersections, meaning streets could not be bisected by the devices.

Boundaries in Foote’s amendments would include original plats, as well as the boundaries of homeowners associations. The site plan review committee also would have the authority to determine a neighborhood’s boundary for the purpose of gating. 

“Jackson’s been here for 150 years, and it’s changed over time. Some of the plats go back to the 1910s and 1920s, neighborhoods changed over that time period,” he said.

He said some streets originally included in neighborhood plats are now arterial or collector streets, which the city already prohibits from being gated.

An arterial street “provides continuous flow for a large volume of traffic; a collector street is just below that in terms of importance,” said Planning Director Eric Jefferson. “In terms of traffic flow, a collector street has less traffic, but collects from an area and feeds into an arterial.”

Ward Six Councilman Tyrone Hendrix seemed to agree that neighborhoods should be defined by plats, rather than HOA service areas.

“Neighborhood associations are fluid. I live in Mayfair. Today it may be Mayfair, tomorrow it could be Mayfair and Brookleigh,” he said.

Barrett-Simon said changes are also needed to prevent certain homeowners from being excluded. In particular, she was referring to Woodland Hills, a neighborhood in her ward.

 

The Woodland Hills Conservation Association (WHCA) is petitioning the city install gates Glenway Drive and Old Canton Road and at Ridge Drive, where Ridge splits from Wood Dale Drive.

Three houses along Ridge would be sitting outside the 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 meeting. “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 of more homeowners outside of the neighborhood to sign on in support of the plans. Additionally, Ridge could be considered a collector street feeding onto Old Canton.

Ward Two Councilman Melvin Priester and Hendrix asked that the ordinance be tabled again, until all council members had time to review Barrett-Simon’s changes.

 

In May 2015 the council approved expanding the gating ordinance. However, the city stopped accepting later that year, and returned to the council, saying the ordinance did not include “due process” for gating opponents. Additionally, gates were being approved without all relevant departments knowing about the plans.

The legal department approached the council with its concerns in October, and the council agreed to temporarily put the ordinance on hiatus.

Foote has attempted to get amendments to the ordinance passed this year, but his proposal has languished in the rules committee.

Foote’s amendments were drawn up with the aid of city legal and planning and development.

Public access gates have become a popular option for Northsiders who want to calm traffic and increase security in their subdivisions.

Unlike private gates, which shut off neighborhoods to through-traffic, public access gates only delay entry. Motorists must drive up to the gate, press a button or simply wait for the gate to open.

The theory behind the idea is that crooks looking for a quick getaway from a crime scene aren’t going to want to wait at a gate.

Additionally, with private gates, neighborhood associations must take up street maintenance, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The attorney general has ruled that with public gates, the local government can still maintain streets.

It was unclear when another committee meeting was set. A copy of both proposals and the full statement of neighbors can be found on the Sun’s Web site, at northsidesun.com.

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