13-story building approved by 4-3 vote

October 11, 2007

13-story building approved by 4-3 vote
By Leah Square
leah.square@mcherald.com

Special to The Clarion-Ledger

This is a rendering of the 13-story proposed building (200 Renaissance) that will house the employees of Butler Snow law firm, the Horne CPA Group and a Fortune 500 company. The building was originally designed to be 17 stories.


Ridgeland aldermen approved developer H.C. “Buster” Bailey’s petition to build 200 Renaissance west of I-55 and Steed Road. The vote came at the end of a six-and-a-half hour public hearing stretching from late Wednesday to early this morning.

Hundreds of people packed into the Ridgeland High Cafetorium to hear more than five hours of “expert” and public comment preceding the vote. Following comments, Community Development Director Alan Hart recommended the petition be approved. After consulting City Attorney Jerry Mills, the mayor and aldermen followed with an executive session, saying the matter was grounds for potential litigation.

It was about 1 a.m. before the Board of Aldermen returned and voted 4-3 in favor of the developer.

The 13-story office building, 200 Renaissance, will house the employees of Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada law firm, the Horne CPA Group and a Fortune 500 company. The land the building is proposed for is zoned for buildings four stories tall or less.

Bailey said construction is to start immediately because the tenants will be moving in during the fall of 2009.

After executive session, Alderman Scott Jones initiated a motion to approve the petition, citing it met 15 criteria as required by the city ordinances. Alderman Chuck Gautier seconded Jones’ motion.

Jones, Gautier and Aldermen Larry Roberts and Linda Davis voted for the petition. Aldermen Ken Heard, Gerald Steen and Kevin Holder voted against it.

Visibly emotional, Davis did not immediately vote when Mayor Gene McGee called for the hands of the aldermen who were for the petition. Only after the others voted did she say, “This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life, but I vote for it.”

Both Davis and Roberts had said they were undecided going into the public hearing. Bailey said the months leading up to the public hearing was a “long road.”

“I’m tired, and I’m just glad it’s over,” he said. “We want to do the best job we can to reconcile with the neighbors that were opposed to this.”

Zoning Ordinances Need Enforcement, a group that formed in opposition of the building, had voiced concerns about the building’s proposed height and potential to cause traffic jams. Some members said they wondered if they could trust their city leaders to enforce the zoning ordinances.

Go Ridgeland, a group of residents who have publicly offered support for the building, maintain the building will bring millions of dollars, prestige and upscale tenants into the city and the state.

Mills has said Attorney Steve Smith, who represents ZONE, may appeal the decision in Madison County Circuit Court. The Circuit Court decision would be based on the record of the mayor and aldermen public hearing, he said.

If either party is dissatisfied with the court decision, the case could then go to the Court of Appeals and possibly the Mississippi Supreme Court.

An appeal and intent to file a bill of exceptions must be presented to the court within 10 days of the public hearing, Smith said.

The minutes of the Sept. 10 Planning and Zoning Board public hearing were added to the record of the mayor and aldermen hearing. The zoning board failed to recommend the mayor and aldermen approve or deny the petition.

4 comments:

Madison County Journal said...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Alderman: 'Never again' on high-rise

By ANDREW UJIFUSA
Assistant Managing Editor

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Explaining her decisive vote that granted approval to the Renaissance high-rise last week, Ward 6 Alderman Linda Davis said on Monday it came down to the companies involved.

"I wanted those tenants," Davis said, speaking of the Butler Snow law firm, Horne CPA Group, and a financial institution that are slated to occupy 200 Renaissance's 13 stories.

But she also added a promise about similar building proposals in the future.

"I'm not going to vote for a 13-story building again," Davis said.

The controversial $60 million building was approved by a 4-3 vote of aldermen just after 1 a.m. last Thursday following a marathon six-and-a-half hour public meeting.

The building is set to be located at the northeast corner of the Renaissance between Old Agency Road and Steed Road on Highland Colony Parkway.

Developer H.C. Bailey said he plans to start construction as soon as possible, although opponents say they plan to appeal the vote.

Ward 5 Alderman Scott Jones made the motion to approve the building.

Ward 2 Alderman Robert Gautier, Ward 4 Alderman Larry Roberts, and Davis voted in favor of Jones' motion.

Ward 1 Alderman Ken Heard, Ward 3 Alderman Kevin Holder and Alderman-at-Large Gerald Steen voted against Jones' motion.

"I ceased long ago to see Ridgeland as a bedroom community," Jones said, explaining his motion.

Davis was the last to cast her vote. She called it the most difficult decision she had ever made as an alderman. With some emotion in her voice, she expressed regret about the way the whole situation had been handled.

"All of this could have been avoided had the neighborhood been consulted," she said, before casting her vote for Bailey.

But Bailey had a different assessment.

"Since this issue has come up, we have had inordinate amounts of consultation," he said after the meeting.

More than 300 people attended the public hearing held Wednesday at the Ridgeland High School cafetorium.

Supporters and detractors of the building wore stickers and segregated themselves, one group sitting on one side of the room and one on the other.

Those in support of the building wore yellow stickers with the words "Build It!!" printed on them, while those against the building wore white stickers with the acronym Z.O.N.E. (Zoning Ordinances Need Enforcement) printed on them.

Mayor Gene F. McGee, aldermen and other city officials sat on a stage listening to those asking for the conditional use permit to build the high-rise, as well as those for and against the issue.

Testimony became heated at times, although McGee did not use his gavel very often.

During his presentation to the aldermen, Bailey said that the glass and steel structure would serve as a flagship for the Renaissance development, which is set to include numerous retail shops and restaurants.

"This is about the future of Ridgeland. This is about the future of development along Highland Colony Parkway," Bailey told the aldermen.

Supporters of the building argued it brought too many benefits, from jobs to enhanced prestige, to be derailed.

"It will attract the kind of people Ridgeland wants to," said Steven Rosenblatt of Ridgeland, a partner in the Butler Snow firm, citing the "unique nature" of the building.

Bailey also argued that if the building was approved, aldermen would be enforcing the city zoning ordinances "exactly as you are prescribed to do."

Members of Z.O.N.E. and others, however, weren't buying those arguments.

They said that Bailey's proposal represented a blatant violation of several zoning ordinances.

Steve Smith, arguing vigorously on behalf of Z.O.N.E., claimed that Bailey was ignoring ordinances about ratios of floor space to property size and about the footprint of the building, in addition to height variances.

Claims about the building's supposed benefits were irrelevant, he said.

"This Chicken Little, 'the sky is falling' argument is for people who don't know the facts," Smith said, adding that the building was "illegal" as proposed.

Several other opponents testified that the building does not fit the atmosphere of the area and would bring more traffic and other negative effects.

They wondered why the development couldn't be like other projects on Highland Colony Parkway, like the offices of Diversified Technologies and the Copeland Cook Taylor and Bush law firm.

The tallest building at Renaissance is the Cellular South headquarters, which is eight stories high. The normal maximum height for buildings in the city is four stories, but the city granted a height variance for the Cellular South building.

"It will esthetically affect the thousands and thousands of people who live in this area," said Lawson Hester, a Z.O.N.E. member.

Mark Adams told the aldermen to stop Bailey from "dividing you to conquer us."

"We're the David versus Goliath in this issue," Kenneth Wheatley of the Old Agency Village neighborhood told the aldermen.

After public comments, Community Director Alan Hart gave prepared remarks and came out strongly in favor of the building.

"This development will be clean, safe and connected," Hart said.

Following remarks from City Attorney Jerry Mills and a lengthy executive session, the aldermen cast their vote in favor of the building.

Lee Boozer, principal of Ridgeland High School and an opponent of the building, said he was "very disappointed" with the decision. He was particularly unhappy with Hart's testimony.

"He didn't listen to both sides," Boozer said.

Madison County Journal said...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

EDITORIAL/Wrenching high-rise vote, but best

Thursday, October 18, 2007


The city of Ridgeland made the right decision by approving the 13-story Renaissance building last week.

Ward 6 Alderman Linda Davis hit the nail on the head: "I wanted those tenants," she said, speaking of the Butler Snow law firm, Horne CPA Group, and a financial institution that are slated to occupy 200 Renaissance.

The controversial $60 million building was approved by a 4-3 vote just after 1 a.m. last Thursday following a marathon six-and-a-half hour public meeting.

Approval of this development puts Ridgeland on the cutting edge of growth in the metro, defining it as the premier business leader.

"I ceased long ago to see Ridgeland as a bedroom community," said Ward 5 Alderman Scott Jones who made the motion to approve the building. He's right.

More growth and people are going to come no matter what.

Renaissance is the kind of prestigious development cities long for that will set Ridgeland apart and attract Mississippi's best.

Madison County Herald said...

Oct 18, 2007

City's growing pains

What Ridgeland has been wracked with lately are growing pains.

The city, which has grown exponentially since the 1980s, has come to a crossroads over whether to grant a variance for the proposed 13-story 200 Renaissance building.

During a session that lasted more than six hours and ended in the wee hours of last Thursday, Ridgeland aldermen voted 4-3 to approve the variance. Several aldermen said their personal vote was the hardest decision of their political careers.

Zoning Ordinances Need Enforcement, a citizens' group against the building, plans for an appeal in Madison County Circuit Court.

The court decision would be based on the record of the mayor and aldermen public hearing, city attorney Jerry Mills said in a report by staff writer Leah Square. If either party is dissatisfied with the outcome at the Circuit Court level, the case could go to the Court of Appeals and possibly the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The H.C. Bailey-planned building would be home to Jackson's Butler Snow law firm and Horne CPA. Regions Bank has been mentioned by The Clarion-Ledger as a possible third tenant in the building. Bailey wants to start construction quickly since tenants had planned to move to Renaissance by fall 2009.

Ridgeland, known as a shopping and dining destination for decades, wants to become a business center as well along the Highland Colony Parkway corridor, but those who live near there want their homes out of the potential shadow of 200 Renaissance.

A positive side of the controversy is that both sides have a commitment and devotion to Ridgeland, and each side feels they are acting in the best interests of the city. One thing, though, that would be in the best interests of no one is a prolonged court battle that could scare business away from the city as well as keep homeowners and business owners in limbo. Parties involved in the battle over 200 Renaissance should reach an agreement so Ridgeland can move forward.

Madison County Herald said...

Oct 16, 2007
Building battle is not finished

By Leah Square
leah.square@mcherald.com

A vocal band of residents opposed to the 13-story 200 Renaissance office building has an appeal to Madison County Circuit Court in the works.

"I'm working on it even as we speak, and it will be filed on or before next Friday," said Lawson Hester, attorney and member of Zoning Ordinances Need Enforcement, on Friday. "I am steadfast, determined, committed and completely undaunted in my belief that this fight will ultimately end in success and the defeat of the Bailey proposal."

ZONE is appealing the Ridgeland Board of Aldermen's decision to grant developer H.C. "Buster" Bailey's petition to build 200 Renaissance at I-55 and Steed Road. The board approved the petition at the end of a six-and-a-half hour public hearing stretching from late Wednesday to early Thursday morning.

It was about 1 a.m. before the aldermen returned and voted 4-3 in favor of the developer.

An appeal of the decision and intent to file a bill of exceptions must be presented to Circuit Court within 10 days of the public hearing.

The court decision would be based on the record of the mayor and aldermen public hearing, said city attorney Jerry Mills. If either party is dissatisfied with the outcome, the case could then go to the Court of Appeals and possibly the Mississippi Supreme Court.

During ZONE attorney Steve Smith's presentation to the board, he mentioned the Supreme Court a number of times. Alderman Ken Heard, whose ward will have the building, asked Smith if he was implying he would take the decision there.

"Yes, I think that's a fair statement," Smith replied.

Bailey has said he was confident the aldermen would approve the petition and that his camp would deal with an appeal situation when appropriate.

The building will house the employees of Butler, Snow, O'Mara, Stevens & Cannada law firm, the Horne CPA Group and a Fortune 500 company, which is rumored to be Regions Bank. The land the building is proposed for is zoned for buildings four stories tall or less.

Bailey said two years worth of construction is to start immediately because the tenants will be moving in from downtown Jackson during the fall of 2009.

Hundreds of people packed into the Ridgeland High Cafetorium to hear more than five hours of "expert" and public comment preceding the vote. Opponents and proponents were literally split down the middle, as they sat on opposite sides of the room.

Following public comment, Community Development Director Alan Hart recommended the petition be approved. The mayor and aldermen followed with an executive session, saying the matter was grounds for potential litigation.

Upon returning, Alderman Scott Jones initiated a motion to approve the petition, saying it met 15 criteria as required by city ordinances. Alderman Chuck Gautier seconded Jones' motion.

Jones, Gautier and Aldermen Larry Roberts and Linda Davis voted for the petition. Aldermen Gerald Steen and Kevin Holder and Heard voted against it.

Visibly emotional, Davis did not immediately vote when Mayor Gene McGee called for the hands of the aldermen who were for the petition. Only after the other six voted did she say, "This is the hardest decision I've ever had to make in my life, but I vote for it."

Most of the aldermen said they had their minds made up as to which way they would vote before the hearing, but both Davis and Roberts had said they were undecided going into it. Bailey said the months leading up to the public hearing was a "long road."

"I'm tired, and I'm just glad it's over," he said. "We want to do the best job we can to reconcile with the neighbors that were opposed to this."

Bailey said part of that reconciliation process will include considering residents' input about the remainder of his plans for the Highland Colony Parkway area.

Still, some ZONE members say they wonder if they can trust city leaders to enforce the zoning ordinances.

"You no longer have the citizens' trust," said ZONE member Susan Haltom, chairman of the Ridgeland Area Master Plan Steering Committee, to the mayor and aldermen in a letter. "We have learned our lessons, and our eyes are wide open. Nothing will slip by."

Jones said he does not want to get into any further opinion battles but said perhaps a more accurate statement would be, "We no longer have certain citizens' trust."

Opponents' and proponents' "opinions certainly can't be a deciding factor in a decision like this," said Jones, defending the board. "I made the decision based on what I thought was the best decision for the city. That's what we all did."

Go Ridgeland, a group of residents who have publicly offered support for the building, maintain the building will bring millions of dollars, prestige and upscale tenants into the city and the state.

"We've suffered the greatest 'brain drain' in the nation," said Madison County Supervisor D.I. Smith, a Go Ridgeland member. "We're in a situation where we must grow or die."

Several of the aldermen said this dispute was the most difficult and important matter they have faced in their political careers.