City council could decide fate of access gates soon

Whether or not public access gates will be allowed in Jackson likely won’t be decided until next week.

An amended public access gates ordinance is expected to be on the agenda for the city council’s March 21 meeting, two weeks after it was supposed to be brought up for a vote.

Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote had asked for the ordinance to be brought up for a vote last week, but the city’s legal department suggested it needed to go through the committee process before being approved.

The city amended its gating ordinance last year to allow all neighborhoods to have access to public access devices. Previously, only subdivisions with one entry/exit point were eligible.

Jackson city officials stopped accepting applications for them and returned to the council, saying the ordinance did not include “due process” for those opposed to the gates.

Also, gates were being approved without all relevant departments knowing about the plans.

“Due process” would include giving opponents of gates the opportunity to appeal decisions allowing them, among other things.

An amended statute was introduced at the council’s second February meeting and was placed in the rules committee by Ward Seven Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon, who was acting as council president.

Foote, who was absent from that meeting, had asked Barrett-Simon to table the motion so it wouldn’t have to be voted out of the committee.

Since that meeting, Foote has introduced additional amendments to the ordinance.

“One of the (deputy city) attorneys said protocol called for it to go back to rules, because the amendments had been adjusted since it was on the council agenda two weeks ago.”

A rules committee meeting is slated for Friday, March 17, to finalize the measure before sending it back to the full council for a vote.

“I am anxious to get it passed so people can move forward with gates,” he said. “Neighborhoods have raised the money and taken votes, and we need to quit pulling the football away from Charlie Brown and let him kick the ball.

“This has taken too long.”

Under last year’s ordinance, rules to apply for gates were also changed. Under the new ordinance, petitioners applying for the gates had to obtain support of 60 percent of property owners in the affected area in order to apply.

That threshold will be going to 75 percent. Other changes will speed up the application process. Proposals recommended by Foote will reduce the time the city has to decide on an application from 90 and 120 days to 60.

An additional amendment includes defining neighborhoods as the residential area within the boundaries of a homeowner’s association; the residential area recorded on the neighborhood’s plat; and other areas determined by the city to be “distinctive and cohesive.”

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