The City of Indianola has taken the first step to initiate a study that could lead to a citywide makeover. The city lawmakers voted unanimously during their July 8 session to go ahead and “get the ball rolling” on a new rezoning and annexation study by hiring Mike Slaughter of Slaughter and Associates Urban Planning Consultants of Oxford.
Mayor Steve Rosenthal told Slaughter that Alderman Sam Brock had questioned the city’s zoning and suggested that the board take a look at making some changes. Apparently, the city has not had an adoptive comprehensive plan done since the late 1970s and Slaughter told the city leaders that forming a plan is necessary for future growth.
At previous sessions, Brock raised issue with the hours of operation for certain stores zoned C-1 Neighborhood Commercial that were located in neighborhoods south of the Columbus and Greenville railroad tracks.
Brock said the board should look at modifications for the entire city. Referencing the 1970’s assessment, he said, “This being 2019, those plans do not work totally in our community.”
Brock continued, “We have these nickel and dime stores throughout our neighborhoods and all of the time these stores are not feasible in the community. So, what can be done for us to reclassify or rezone areas such as that?”
He explained that other cities across the state also face a similar dilemma. “Where you can find a nickel and dime store, you gone find more violence and more other situations going on,” Brock said.
He advocates rezoning as a way to change that. “And if we can change that and move on to the next 20-25 years, I think that would be helpful towards the citizens and the community as a whole.”
Slaughter said he was in full agreement with what Brock said and acknowledged that the 1970’s plan may have been the best available at that time. Also, without denouncing the originators of that plan, he said, “But the time has past, there’s very little that can be gained from that comprehensive plan no matter how good it was.”
He advised that the rezoning be based on a new adoptive comprehensive plan and explained that a comprehensive plan looks outward to the future to help guide and direct the growth of a city. It also lists its goals and objectives and according to him, should involve input from the citizens as well as the lawmakers.
Slaughter told the leaders that a good comprehensive plan would protect and enhance the city’s quality of life and would be a good foundation for the other needed elements. He said without a plan it could mean the loss of businesses and jobs. “You’ll want to protect and enhance that quality of life, you don’t want to take it for granted, because once you start going the wrong direction it’s hard to turn it around,” Slaughter said.
In addition to that plan, he also said there's a need for future land-use planning and a new zoning map. He said a future-land-use plan should extend beyond the corporate limits of the city and determines, “what would be the highest and best use for that property.”
He said the final elements that need to be in place would include a transportation plan and a community facilities’ assessment. He explained with a certain degree of detail the process his company uses to get the desired results. He stressed that the city’s current plan should have been updated years ago.
In his explanation of the process, Slaughter said ideally it would be planning through zoning and that it would make the area a place where people will want to come and invest and be a part of the community. He suggested some “mixed uses” for downtown as a possible component of the plan, which would result in both retail and residential spaces in the business district.
Alderman Ruben Woods asked about businesses that may be located in sectors that would change after reallocation and Slaughter said despite any changes that may result from rezoning, any existing businesses that are deemed to have a “legal non-conforming use” can remain until the business is closed for a period that would be specified by a city ordinance. “I think the shorter the amount of time the more reasonable,” said Slaughter.
Slaughter told the city leaders that because of the many elements, it would take about nine months to conduct a comprehensive plan. So, he suggested completing the annexations and zoning first in the course of completing the plan. “It’s time, it’s past time,” Slaughter said.
With regard to budgeting, Rosenthal asked if the process could be done in stages and Slaughter assured him that it could. “I’ll work with you in any way,” he said.