If you missed it – and you did – Jackson will have two more chances for residents to sound off on proposed changes to the city’s public access gating ordinance.
The Jackson City Council’s rules committee recently hosted a public hearing to gain input on the amendments.
However, no one showed up to speak in favor or opposition of the plans.
The hearing was held on Monday, June 29, two weeks after a previous meeting had been set for June 15.
“We had the first meeting and we didn’t have enough notice. This notice went out and we thought we would have some participation,” said Ward Six Councilman Aaron Banks. “What we’ll end up doing is holding two more meetings to give people ample time for public input.”
At the heart of the matter is the city’s public access gating ordinance.
The ordinance has been in limbo for more than a year, after two contentious public hearings in April 2019 forced two neighborhoods to withdraw their applications to install the devices.
At the time, the Eastover and Woodland Hills neighborhoods were attempting to get permission to put in gates. Representatives from both subdivisions withdrew plans after numerous residents spoke in opposition.
After that, the council agreed to take another look at the ordinance, to address concerns brought up by those in attendance.
Among concerns, 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.
“I want to eliminate that excuse,” he said.
The gating ordinance was first adopted in 2011, and has been modified several times. The initial ordinance only allowed public access gates for neighborhoods with one entry and exit point. In 2016, the measure was expanded to allow all neighborhoods to have the devices. The measure was modified again in 2017, in part, to allow more input in the gating process.
Under the current rendition, once the gating application is submitted, it is reviewed by the city’s site plan review committee. The committee then makes a recommendation to the city’s planning and development director, and from there the director takes the recommendation to the city council. The council then schedules a public hearing, where supporters and opponents of the gates are allowed to speak.
Since its passage, numerous neighborhoods on the Northside have been approved for gates, including Heatherwood and Northpointe in 2019.
The 2017 amendments were made at the behest of the city’s legal department, to allow “due process” to those who were opposed to the applications.
However, last April, residents said they wanted to comment earlier in the application process.
Banks’ amendments would allow that. The councilman’s other changes include prohibiting exit-only gates at entrances shared by multiple neighborhoods.
The changes, which were still being reviewed by the city attorney’s office, are still up for discussion.
“The thing for us is to ensure that we provide the space, time and opportunity for everyone to have input before it comes out of committee,” Banks said. “After that, it has to come out of committee.
“We have to make a decision on whether we’re going to have this on the books or not. We just can’t hold it up.”