Ridgeland mayor clears way for 13-story building







December 5, 2007

Ridgeland mayor clears way for 13-story building

By Elizabeth Crisp
elizabeth.crisp@clarionledger.com


RIDGELAND — With Mayor Gene McGee casting a surprise, tie-breaking vote Tuesday night, city aldermen approved final architectural plans for a 13-story office building that has been a point of conflict in Ridgeland.

Plans for 200 Renaissance appeared to have hit a snag earlier in the meeting because of a proposed seven-level parking garage, but Ward 6 Alderwoman Linda Davis abruptly left the meeting, leaving McGee to cast the final vote and pave the way for the building's construction.

Buster Bailey, developer of the 200 Renaissance building near Highland Colony Parkway and I-55, said construction could start as soon as next week.

The building, which will be home to the Butler Snow law firm, Horne CPA Group and Regions Bank, is expected to take about two years to complete. The tenants currently occupy the AmSouth Plaza building in downtown Jackson and plan to move to the new building by October 2009.

Before the final vote in favor of the architectural plans, aldermen had voted 4-3 against the design, with Davis saying she did not approve of the parking garage.

Ward 5 Alderman Scott Jones prefaced the vote by telling fellow aldermen that rejecting the plans could mean the city would lose the building and its prestigious tenants.

"Before we vote, does everyone understand that?" he asked.

The board later went into executive session, and when it ended, Davis immediately left.

The plans were brought back up for vote after she left, leaving McGee to cast the tie-breaker in favor of the developer's plans.

After the meeting, Davis said she left because she did not think she could vote in good conscience either way.

"On one hand, I think this will be a good thing for the city," she said. "But I don't want to feel like I'm betraying the trust of the citizens."

Other aldermen who voted against the proposals also took issue with the developer's plans for a 67-foot-tall parking structure.

The city's ordinances do not regulate the height of parking garages if at least 40 percent of the structures are "open," said city Community Development Director Alan Hart.

Alderman-at-large Gerald Steen said he wanted the city to review that policy before approving Bailey's request.

When Bailey first presented plans for the project several months ago, he had asked for a 16-story building that included three levels of parking on the bottom, as well as an adjacent parking garage.

After concerns were brought up by city officials and residents over the proposed height, Bailey retooled his project and presented new plans for a 13-story building that did not include parking levels within it.

Instead, the levels of parking that had been planned as the lower levels of the building were moved on top of the existing parking garage, increasing the number of levels there. The final plans, including the parking garage, were approved unanimously by the city's Architectural Review Board last week.

Bailey told aldermen the city would kill the project if the parking garage was not approved.

"We've acted in good faith," he said. "We've spent lots of time and money trying to make this work."

Several residents opposed to the building have filed an appeal in Madison County Circuit Court to the aldermen's 4-3 vote in favor of the height variance.

Their appeal has not yet been reviewed by a judge.

Dinsmor resident and attorney Lawson Hester, one of those named in the appeal, spoke to aldermen during Tuesday's meeting, saying that he represented "hundreds of citizens of Ridgeland" in opposing the building.

"I do not think proper consideration has been given to these plans," he said of the six-story parking garage.

He also said he did not think it was proper of the board to vote in Davis' absence.
To comment on this story, call Elizabeth Crisp at (601) 942-9019.

5 comments:

jim said...

Folks
What the hell were the dissenters thinking? It is not often if at all that a project like Renaissance comes along for a city the size of Ridgeland. The City should be proud to have such fine businesses headquartered here.
Representative government was designed to give constituents someone who represents the common good not just the interests of a few and especially not to protect the feelings and friendships of their neighbors. Miss Davis apparently left the meeting because she couldn't vote her conscience so she decided to not participate at all, what courage!
If a poll were taken I think everyone knows that a majority of residents want this development.The resistance is not to this building but to the entire project. Some residents off Highland Colony got cold feet when they realized that Highland Colony Parkway will not be a bicyclist path anymore but a busy thoroughfare. Is there any better reason to accept this high rise project then to use some of the revenue from these tenants to increase police protection and to ensure continuing infrastructure improvements to keep those communities near the project safe and secure? Did the folks who voted NO lose confidence in the judgment and vision of Mayor McGee and Mr. Bailey? Does their past record of achievement count for nothing?
Thanks to the Mayor and the courageous Aldermen who thought of the whole City of Ridgeland not just the parochial interests of a few in their votes.
jim root

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