News - Editorial/Riding the fence on R'land's high-rise

EDITORIAL/Riding the fence on R'land's high-rise

Some opportunities come along only once in a lifetime.

The construction of Northpark mall in the 1980s and a few upscale office buildings tucked away in the woods along E. County Line Road were just such an opportunity for Ridgeland, no doubt those projects in part making Madison County what it is today. Repeat, commercial development made Madison County what it is today because that development financed so much of the early growth.

Ridgeland finds itself at just such a crossroads again, perhaps an even more significant one. That's why rushing to any judgment about the proposed $60 million, 13-story high-rise that will bring the state's largest and most prestigious law firm, among others, to a suburban campus setting along the Highland Colony Parkway is risky.

Most business leaders recognize what an extremely good opportunity this is, how affluent areas of suburban Atlanta and Birmingham have prospered because of similar development.

The arguments here are passionate on both sides, even highly emotional.

But this can be a high and defining moment for Ridgeland, although it's a shame those who are appointed to make decisions can't seem to do so.

After a marathon hearing on Monday night that lasted nearly four hours, the Ridgeland Planning and Zoning Board was unable to reach a consensus and won't make a recommendation to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen. Make a decision. Any decision. But don't be indecisive, especially when it matters most.

Fearmongering has no place, yet it's rampant and obviously having an impact as Evil Developers are pitted against the Little Guy.

Cooler, calmer and more reasonable heads must prevail as this issue moves to a vote before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

In many ways, this vote is about the future of Madison County.

What kind of development are we seeking? Massive call centers with 300 employees barely earning minimum wage or affluent professionals, the demographic any community would die for?

Are we going to slam the gate shut and become part of the NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) crowd?

If Ridgeland had taken the NIMBY position 15 years ago in the rolling meadows west of the interstate there would be no Dinsmor, no Canterbury, no Highland Colony and probably no Level 5 schools and a quality of life that is the envy of the state.

Don't demonize the public officials. Mayor Gene F. McGee has forged the vision that is Ridgeland today, so portraying him as in the pocket of greedy developers simply isn't fair. It's dead wrong.

The record will reflect that Ridgeland has been among the most protective of homeowners while maintaining a thriving pro-business environment. Few communities are even in the position of being able to take on such an exclusive project, but Ridgeland has the infrastructure in place. This prime, select office building is in Ridgeland's overall best interest and should be approved.

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