City considers revising gating ordinance again; applications withdrawn

By ANTHONY WARREN,

Third time could be the charm when it comes to the city of Jackson’s public access gating ordinance.

Less than two years after it was amended, the city council could again be considering amending the city’s gating rules.

The news comes following two contentious public hearings for gates on the Northside.

Recently, hearings were held for the Eastover and Woodland Hills neighborhoods, both of which had hoped to install the devices at their major entrances.

In both cases, numerous people spoke against the gates, and in both cases, they told the council that they had not had an opportunity to be involved in the gating process until the meeting.

Both neighborhoods withdrew their applications, with some council members openly saying the ordinance should again be amended.

“We need to revisit this ordinance and put it back in the rules committee,” said Ward Six Councilman Aaron Banks. “Hash it out the right way and if not, we need to repeal it.”

Ward Seven Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay agrees and wants to sit down with supporters and opponents of gates before determining exactly how the ordinance should be re-written.

Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote said the ordinance works fine. “It worked for the people in Heatherwood.”

The Heatherwood neighborhood was approved for gates earlier this year. Late last year, the council signed off on gating applications for Massena Heights, Rollingwood and Northpointe. All three were approved with relatively little opposition.

The ordinance was passed in 2011 and amended in 2017. The rules spell out the gating application process.

Among steps, applicants must obtain 75 percent support from residents within the proposed gated area. Additionally, gating plans have to be submitted to the city’s Site Plan Review Committee, to ensure they don’t have a negative impact on infrastructure or on police and fire response times. After clearing site plan, the applications go the council, which sets a public hearing. Under the ordinance, the council can vote on the application the day of the hearing.

While Foote said the ordinance doesn’t need to be changed, he said the hearing process does make it relatively easy to sway council opinion in opposition of the gates.

“Some people make claims to stop things. What you saw at the meeting (last week) was an example of very emotional appeals that sidetracked the efforts to get (gates) in place,” he said. “The job of the council is to be a council of rules ... and not let emotional appeals overwhelm the rules people are trying to follow.” 

 

The public hearings represents the only time opponents have to speak out against the gates, something that was brought up time and again at the Eastover and Woodland Hills meetings.

“Our front door is Quail Run and East Manor. You’d think that since we’d be affected, we’d get some input in it,” said East Manor resident Jonathan Lee.

Eastover proposing installing five gates, including one across the street from Lee’s home, at Quail Run Road and East Manor Drive.

Lee was among several residents from the East Manor subdivision that spoke out against Eastover’s plans to put a gate there, saying it would block a major entrance into their neighborhood.

“There is a huge quality of life issue here at stake,” he said.

East Manor currently can be accessed by Meadowbrook Road and Northside Drive. Meadowbrook provides the most direct route, with motorists having to turn north onto Quail Run. To access East Manor from Northside, residents would have to travel several neighborhood streets.

East Manor residents were not opposed to Greater Eastover’s other gates, which would be installed on Eastover Drive at Ridgewood Road, Lake Circle at Rhymes Place and East Borne Place at Rhymes and Douglass Drive, and Douglass Drive behind Covenant Presbyterian Church.

Carl Menist, who spoke against Woodland Hills’ plans, said the city had a “poor grievance process” for dealing with gating opponents.

The Woodland Hills Conservation Association proposed installing gates at Glenway Drive and Old Canton Road and on Ridge Drive where it splits from Wood Dale Drive.

“All we get is three minutes to talk about how significant this is. That’s a poor grievance process,” he said.

Attorney Steve Smith had asked to speak for 12 to 15 minutes, on behalf of all Woodland Hills opponents, but was turned down.

At public hearings, the council typically allows three minutes for each supporter and opponent wishing to speak. No limits have been set on the number of people who have been allowed to speak.

 

Greater Eastover Foundation Executive Director Dana Robertson also would like to see gating rules modified, largely to give supporters an opportunity to dispel false information put out by their opponents.

“It does make sense to amend the ordinance to allow for a pre-hearing, so all of those issues could be sorted out,” she said.

She pointed to the fact that one opponent said no one would be able trick-or-treat in Eastover if the gates were approved.

“Jackson’s traffic division requires pedestrian walkways on both sides of the gates,” she said.

The same argument was presented by Stephanie Busby, a Ridge Drive resident who spoke in opposition of the Woodland Hills application.

Referring to the Ridge Drive gate, she said it “would deter hundreds of walkers and runners, and members of the community (would) no longer feel welcome.”

Robertson cited other false claims as well, including several that residents were never given notice of Eastover’s intentions.

“Public notice had to published in two newspapers, and we had to post signs at the sites,” she said. “There was no opportunity to clear that up because of the format of the meeting.”

 

 

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