The Jackson City Council could soon be moving even quicker on approving changes to the city’s public access gating ordinance, with the new rules committee chair saying no more public hearings are needed.
Ward Seven Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay said she hopes to schedule a rules committee meeting soon to have a final work through of the proposed changes to the ordinance with the “goal of moving it out of committee and to the council agenda for action.”
“We had a public hearing and no one came. So, my thought is we’ve had as many public hearings as we need to at this time,” she said.
At the heart of the matter is Jackson’s public access gating ordinance. The measure spells out requirements for neighborhoods interested in installing the devices as means to quell traffic concerns and increase security.
The amendments would allow residents more opportunities to comment on gating applications during the review process. They also would prohibit gates from going up at entrances shared by multiple neighborhoods.
Changes to the ordinance have been in the works for more than a year, with the proposals being drawn up following two contentious public hearings in April 2019.
The previous rules committee chair, Ward Six Councilman Aaron Banks, was already trying to fast-track the amendments through the committee. However, he wanted to have at least two more public hearings before having the council vote on them.
Lindsay, though, said now is the time to act, citing the fact that no one attended the last public hearing earlier this summer.
Banks, who is now council president, scheduled two public hearings earlier this summer to seek public input. The first one was rescheduled because it was improperly noticed, and no one attended the second, which was held on June 29.
“I will be discussing this with the planning department and we will be scheduling a committee meeting in probably early to mid-August,” Lindsay said.
The point of the meeting would be to “discuss the changes and determine whether the committee members are comfortable enough to move (the amendments) to the regular agenda of the city council, for us to take action on,” according to Lindsay.
Public access gates, unlike private gates, do not bar individuals from entering a neighborhood.
All motorists must do is drive up, push a button or simply wait for the gate to open. The gates slow traffic by requiring motorists to wait before entering an area. They deter potential criminals, because the gate would prevent a quick getaway.
While city leaders are considering amending the ordinance, another Northside neighborhood is moving forward with plans to install their own gate under existing provisions.
The Sheffield Area Homeowners Association is proposing installing a device on Brecon Drive east of the Hillview Drive fork in the road.
Last week, Katherine Tate was collecting signatures from homeowners in the affected area.
She described the gate as a “friendly barrier” that would be used to deter speeding along the residential street.
“We would like to have it done in 10 months,” she said. “We’ve been working on it for two months.”
To move forward to the site plan review process, the neighborhood must obtain signatures from residents in the affected area. According to Tate’s estimates, that includes about 30 homeowners on Brecon, as well as some residents on Hillview Drive, North Hampton Drive, Shadowwood Drive and Calnita Place.
Hillview, Shadowwood and North Hampton run into Brecon, while Brecon dead-ends into Calnita. All roads can be accessed by streets other than Brecon.
The gate would not impact traffic coming from Spann Elementary, which usually uses Hillview to exit the area, Tate said. Spann is located on Ridgewood Road just south of Brecon.
Under the current measure, applicants must obtain signatures of support from 75 percent of residents in the affected area.
From there, the application goes to the city’s Site Plan Review Committee for review.
The committee is made up of representatives from the city’s public works planning, fire and police departments. Members of that body determine that the gates would not negatively impact public safety or public infrastructure.
Once the application is reviewed, the director of planning makes a recommendation to the city council. The council then sets a public hearing to discuss the matter, to allow opponents and supporters to offer comment. After that hearing, the council either votes the application up or down.
The gating ordinance had worked well until last April, when residents sparred over gating proposals for Eastover and Woodland Hills.
Among concerns raised at those hearings, opponents said they did not have an opportunity to comment on the gating application until the applications were taken to the council late in the approval process.
Meanwhile, supporters say they did not have a chance to refute testimony given by opponents, putting them at a disadvantage.
Following those meetings, Banks proposed several amendments, including adding a community meeting requirement to the gating approval process. Doing so, he said, would allow more public input on gating plans, and hopefully prevent what happened last April from happening again.
Although Banks wanted additional public hearings on his amendments, he said the ultimate decision to have them would be up to Lindsay.