Thursday, February 10, 2005

City OKs measures for tourism project

Staff Writer

The Holly Springs Board of Aldermen approved three motions that push forward plans for the opening this year of Walter Place Estates, Cottages and Gardens for touring.

Mike Lynn, developer of Holly Springs’ newest tourist attraction, said he wanted to close the entrance to Polk Place and Featherston to vehicle traffic, as well as an inside road behind the great gate at the Craft Street entrance. When the tour opens, only pedestrian traffic will be permissible at the gate and only private traffic to drives behind the gate, he said. The aldermen approved these two requests and a third for a permit to drill an agricultural well to supply water for 15 acres of gardens containing water features.

Gates will be open during visiting hours, he said, but will be closed at night as a security measure.

The city will continue to enjoy easement rights but the Lynns will maintain the roads within the compound.

Alderman Russell Johnson asked Lynn where visitors will park when they come to visit Walter Place Estates.

“All up and down Chulahoma, Gholson and in the city parking lot,” he said.

The board took up two other measures, a request for a variance to operate a women’s recovery center at the old Holly Springs nursing home on Highway 4 East and a proposal from the Central Service Association to set up a credit card payment system at the Holly Springs Utility Department.

Local attorney Bill Schneller discussed reasons that his client Teen Challenge Mississippi should be granted a use variance to operate an alcohol and drug rehab center at the old nursing home site.

Schneller argued that under old zoning board authority the nursing home structure was used as a commercial structure and since the structure has not changed, the zoning for the use should not revert to residential (R12).

“If it reverts to RR (under current zoning) it falls under education and church which is permitted on appeal in R12,” he said. “Then, from just a practical standpoint, is that property feasible for use in R-12? Basically, there is no other use than as a commercial facility.”

Another approach would be to rezone the site as B-2.

“The Lord knows, we could use some drug and alcohol rehab in Holly Springs, since we’ve got so much of it going on,” Schneller said, humorously.

He said the public is usually concerned about unknowns.

“We had an unknown when the prison came in, but it (unpleasantness) hasn’t happened,” he said.

Virgil Scherff, director of the Teen Challenge Mississippi facility in Pascagoula, offered various letters from its neighbors there - a Salvation Army office on one side and a private owner on the other.

He claimed “zero impact to the community from either a personal or business standpoint.”

“It is not a negative to a residential or business community,” he said.

Mayor Andre’ DeBerry agreed that the community in his opinion needs a rehab facility but added that there has been opposition to this site.

“There is strong opposition to the project from landowners near the property and some maybe not nearby,” DeBerry said.

Alderman Tim Liddy asked if anyone has spoken to officials in Pascagoula about the business’ reputation.

Scherff offered letters from the mayor and chief of police in Pascagoula.

Liddy asked if Scherff had talked with landowners near the old nursing home - a facility that was donated to Teen Challenge by the owners of Trinity Mission.

Scherff offered that his son-in-law and daughter are building a home near the facility. He added that the organization strictly prohibits residents from loitering in front of the business.

Liddy asked Scherff how Teen Challenge is funded and he replied that 70 percent of funding comes from private donations from churches of all denominations. He added that the property could not be sold for two years and cannot be used for a competing nursing home under the terms agreed upon between the church and the previous owner.

The mayor agreed to consider the matter further at the next board meeting when Schneller provides supporting documents for the board.

The board also heard a proposal from Roger Smith, marketing manager for Central Service Association of Tupelo (CSA), who offered to set up Western Union SpeedPay service for the utility department. CSA is a not-for-profit service company that offers information technology functions for member utilities. The company acts like a co-op, he said.

The new service is for consumers who wish to pay a utility bill with VISA, MasterCard, debit or ATM cards, or e-check.

Under the agreement CSA has with Western Union SpeedPay, a customer who wants to pay a bill without coming to the utility office or by mailing in a check can use SpeedPay. Western Union will charge the customer $3.95 per transaction and CSA will charge the customer $1.25 per transaction to pay by card or e-check and those fees are included in the customer’s statement from the credit card or e-check banking statement.

The board took no action on the proposal.

After hearing a report from Don Hollingsworth, with the utility department, on the inspection report on the Chulahoma Avenue bridge, the board voted to authorize closing of the bridge until the state provides the funds to repair or replace it.

County engineer Larry Britt said the bridge is under the maintenance authority of the City of Holly Springs because it is within the city limits.

Twelve of 22 wood pilings under the bridge are rotten or hollow and the other 10 are in deteriorating condition, according to Larry Britt, county engineer and bridge inspector.

Britt said the bridge was scheduled to be repaired with state aid program monies.

He said the bridge should be closed until it is either replaced or repaired.

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