Neighbors concerned about rezoning request

By ANTHONY WARREN,

A plan to rezone the Meadowbrook Office Park as a mixed-use district has sparked debate among Northsiders.

Some support the idea, saying the rezoning is needed to keep the area vibrant, while others argue the plans could increase traffic on relatively calm neighborhood streets.

Park Central One LLC and Park Central II LLC are seeking to rezone the office park’s five parcels from commercial and residential to CMU-1, or a community mixed-use district.

Clint Herring, president and CEO of the Kerioth Corporation, the parent company for both Park Centrals, said the rezoning would make the area more competitive and allow developers to add other offerings, including restaurants, condominiums and retirement housing, which are not allowed under current zoning. 

“We’ve had really good buy-in from most homeowners,” he said.

The Jackson Planning Board approved Park Central’s request in August. The measure now will go before the Jackson City Council.

If the decision is not appealed, it will be on the agenda for the council’s September 16 zoning meeting. If it is appealed, the request will be brought up at the council’s October 21 meeting.

Opponents had not decided if they would appeal the planning board’s decision at press time. James Peden, attorney for the applicants, said the rezoning should be allowed, in part, because of the change of the character in the area.

He points to the rezoning of the District at Eastover, a mixed-use development south of the Meadowbrook Office Park at the corner of the I-55 frontage road and Eastover Drive, as well as other variances that have been granted along the frontage road over the years.

“Under state law, the applicant has the burden of showing there is a substantial change in the character of an area and there is a public need for rezoning,” Peden said. “We have met those requirements.”

LOHO resident Estelle Mockbee, though, questions those claims. She points to the fact that nearly all of Meadowbrook Road east of Kings Highway is residential, save for the office park.

In fact, she said the only change in the area’s character came about two decades ago when the office park itself was constructed.

The parcels in question are located at 1300 and 1400 Meadowbrook, and 4266, 4268 and 4270 I-55 North Frontage Road, at the northeastern corner of the Meadowbrook/I-55 interchange. The sites are currently zoned C-1 and C-2 commercial and R-3 and R-4 residential.

The park is surrounded by neighborhoods, including LOHO to the south, Meadowbrook East to the east and Highland Park to the north. On the opposite side of the interstate, the interchange includes the Barrington apartments and St. Andrew’s Episcopal School’s lower school campus.

“Everything about Meadowbrook yells residential,” she said.

Developers have had several meetings with neighbors to discuss their plans.

Among ideas, residents say Kerioth has proposed building a hotel, an assisted living facility and retirement condos.

They also said Kerioth has also proposed converting existing office buildings into mixed-use facilities, with retail on the bottom floors and office and residential on the upper levels.

LOHO president John Morgan Hughes said he and his board would not support a hotel but is in favor of seeing the office buildings there converted to mixed-use.

“The intent of their design is to be like the Township. If that’s the model, we think that’s a positive thing,” he said.

Kerioth owns the Township at Colony Park, a mixed-use development along Highland Colony Parkway in Ridgeland.

“One of the things we originally heard is that they were wanting to put chain hotels there,” Hughes said. “We definitely would be opposed to that. However, we were assured very quickly that was not the intent of the project.

“We feel pretty confident, with Kerioth’s track record of development, they’re going to do what they say they’re going to do.” 

Residents in the Meadowbrook East neighborhood worry that a retirement center or retirement condos would increase traffic in their neighborhood.

The retirement center would be located on the northeast end of the property at a parking lot that is currently zoned for residential use.

Meadowbrook East includes a series of zero-lot-line homes located on Autumn Ridge Drive, Winwood Drive and Meadow Knoll Drive.

Autumn Ridge and Meadow Knoll dead end at the site developers are considering putting the retirement home.

Steve Smith, an attorney for the neighborhood, spoke in opposition to Kerioth’s plans at the planning board meeting.

“I’m sure the city would require Autumn Ridge and Meadow Knoll to be opened up,” he said. “It would allow a small residential subdivision to be a pass-through to get to commercial development.

“The only reason they’ve been able to stay over there and have peace and quiet is because there are no thoroughfares.” 

Peden agreed that the city might require the streets to be opened to accommodate a retirement center. However, he said Kerioth would take steps to alleviate residents’ concerns, in part, by limiting the height of a potential retirement center to three stories, installing landscaped buffering and ensuring any lighting there would be pointed away from the neighborhood itself.

As for the streets, he said they would only be used in emergency situations. Said Peden, “We would not use them except for an emergency fire exit, as the city would require.”

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