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New Zoning Offers More Positives Than Problems

New Zoning Offers More Positives Than Problems

By Jack Gurner

WATER VALLEY – Colbert Jones says the city’s zoning ordinances aren’t very restrictive. In fact, he said, they are pretty basic.

Jones is a long-time planning professional who worked as a consultant for the mayor and board of aldermen to prepare the new laws that became effective in August 2006. The local ordinances are based on those of other cities similar to Water Valley.

Mayor Bill Norris said that the city is growing and city officials felt the need for new laws to deal with the growth.

“The old zoning ordinances of 1977 may have been OK then, but new laws are needed to deal with today’s issues,” Norris said.

A public hearing on the new ordinances was held before the July 2006 city board meeting. After the hearing, the board voted unanimously in regular session to adopt the new comprehensive plan, zoning ordinances and subdivision regulations.

Since the ordinances have been in effect, there have been a few problems. For example, one resident wanted to put a mobile home in an area zoned R-1 which is for single family residences. This was not allowed since mobile homes are restricted to special residential areas zoned R-4.

Others have complained because the new laws require recreational vehicles to be parked only in designed areas on their property. And a few others are upset because they were told they would have to clean up their property to comply with the new ordinances.

Still others are upset over what they believe to be selective enforcement of the ordinances.

Some problems are to be expected when new laws are put into place. There are cities which are much more restrictive than Water Valley, said Jones, who was director of planning for the city of Oxford and now holds a similar position for Lafayette county government.

During the first few months of 2006, Jones met with the newly formed Water Valley Planning Commission to help train the members. He also worked with them to finalize the city’s comprehensive plan that provides guidelines for the long-range development of the city.

“Successful communities don’t just happen,” said Eddie Foster, planning commission secretary, “They have to be continually shaped and guided.”

Foster is one of six members of the commission that includes, Chairman Billy Humphreys, Ken French, Levert Hawkins, Bonnie Cox, and Lynn Morris.

The comprehensive plan sets out goals and objectives for land use, commercial and industrial development, recreation, streets, schools, and public facilities. The zoning and development ordinances are “implementation tools” for the plan.

Two of the commercial objectives have already been realized. Water Valley has been designated a Mississippi Main Street community. In turn, the local Main Street group has achieved another of the objectives by establishing a farmer’s market.

According to Mayor Morris, enhancing neighborhoods by promoting quality development will maintain and improve property values. “Upgrading community facilities will better serve the citizens while increasing pride in neighborhoods,” the mayor added.

The planning commission meets on the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. Residents with questions or problems may have their name put on the commission’s agenda by calling the city clerk’s office, says chairman Humphreys.

Editor’s note: Reporter Jack Gurner served on the Water Valley Planning Commission from the time it was formed two years ago until he resigned last month after joining the Herald staff. He believes the zoning ordinances are important for Water Valley’s growth. This is the second of a two-part series.

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