Foote optimistic city will update gating ordinance despite opposition by fewBy ANTHONY WARREN,
For more than a year, a handful of Jackson residents have kept the city from updating its ordinance on public access gates.
However Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote believes the city will break through that opposition and see the ordinance expanded for all neighborhoods.
“We have a handful of people holding a lot of the neighborhoods across the city hostage through normal roadblocks that politics can present,” he said. “A lot of people are frustrated because we didn’t get this taken care of six months ago.”
A public hearing was held recently to discuss amending the city’s gating ordinance. An ordinance for gating was passed last year, but was put on hold so amendments could be made. The hearing was to allow residents to sound off on what they wanted to include in the amendments.
After hearing from both sides, Foote met with Ward Seven Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay, as well as officials with the city’s legal and planning departments, in hopes of hammering out a compromise.
He didn’t share details of the ordinance at press time, but said it would address opponents’ concerns, and include a mechanism for those opposed to the devices.
Lindsay, who attended the meeting with Ward Six Councilman Aaron Banks, couldn’t be reached for comment.
About 60 people attended. The vast majority spoke in favor of expanding the ordinance, while a handful spoke against it. Ted Orkin, a Northpointe resident, said his neighborhood didn’t have gates when he moved there 35 years ago, and he doesn’t want gates there now. However, he’s not opposed to the city’s 2011 ordinance, which allowed the devices for neighborhoods with only one entrance.
“I don’t appreciate making it (more) difficult for me going from one place to another,” he said.
Steve Smith, an attorney representing seven opponents of the ordinance passed in 2016, urged the council to pass more “equitable” rules.
And one resident, Carmel Lampton, spoke against gates altogether, saying they damage “the soul of the community.”
Other residents weren’t so much worried about the soul of the community as they were themselves or their neighbors getting run over.
Willie Crim of Heather-wood told the council a neighbor’s loved one had been killed when she was run over by speeding vehicle, and having a gate could have prevented it. The devices have become popular, in part, because they reduce through-traffic on residential streets. Speeding motorists don’t like to stop and wait for the gates to open, and will look for alternate routes.
Also, the devices are seen as a means to improve security.
In all, residents from five major Northside neighborhoods spoke in favor of expanding the ordinance.
Lisa Nettles, of the Villages of Northpointe, asked how a few opponents could hold several neighborhoods hostage. She told the council the ordinance passed last year included “guidelines that our neighborhood was able to work with.”
However, the city put the ordinance on hiatus, effectively pulling the rug out from under supporters.
An expanded gating ordinance was passed in May 2016. Jackson put the new rules on hiatus months later, at the behest of the legal department.
“Why are we listening to a small group of people whose complaints are limited to a neighborhood squabble?” Nettles asked. She was likely referring to controversy surrounding gating plans for the Woodland Hills.
The Fondren neighborhood was planning to erect gates at Glenway Drive and Old Canton Road, and at Ridge Drive and Wood Dale.
Elta Johnston, with the Woodland Hills Conser-vation Association (WHCA) took exception to the term squabble, and said the majority of residents in her neighborhood were united in support of gates. She said all but six of the 61 homeowners in the affected area signed petitions in support of the plans, and two of those not in favor of the gates still contributed to their construction.“
Some residents would be left out if Woodland Hills was allowed to put up the gates, Smith said. Several residents hired Smith to represent them.
Smith believes gates should be allowed, but only at the entrance and exit points of platted subdivisions. Plats are filed with the chancery clerk’s office, and show the original boundaries of neighborhoods.
He urged the council to pass a more “equitable” ordinance that would be fair to all residents.
The attorney helped craft amendments to the city ordinance. They were introduced by former Ward Seven Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon earlier this year.
Barrett-Simon introduced them to counter a proposal by Foote, who proposes defining a neighborhood by its original plats or by the area served by a homeowners association.
The proposed changes also included requiring applicants to obtain signatures of support from 75 percent of property owners in the platted area before the city would consider allowing gates.
At the time, residents argued Barrett-Simon’s proposal would force applicants to obtain support from tens to hundreds of more property owners than the 2016 ordinance required.
Her and Smith’s amendments would require gates to be installed at intersections, meaning streets could not be bisected by the devices.
Foote’s earlier amendments called for just 65 percent of support from residents in the affected area.
Dana Robertson, executive director of the Greater Eastover Foundation (GEF), said defining a neighborhood by its plat alone is “not practical or logical.”
Rather, she said a neighborhood is better defined by the boundaries of a neighborhood association. “The ordinance (would require the association) to carry a million-dollar insurance policy, a point person to be responsible 24 hours a day if (there is a) malfunction – a plat is not a formal entity and cannot carry a policy or perform these duties,” she said. “A homeowners association is one of those entities.”