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Public hearing set for planned Natchez Leisure and Recreation District
from Staff Reports - NEWS
May 24, 2017 - ListenUpYall.com

NATCHEZ, Miss. - City officials will hold a public hearing Friday on regulations being developed to control drinkers wanting to legally walk around downtown Natchez with booze in their hands.

A new Mississippi “Go Cup” law takes effect July 1 to exempt Natchez from the general ban against drinking outside state-licensed bars and restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages. Local rules for how Natchez will implement this are being ironed out by city Planning Director Rico Giani for the Board of Aldermen to adopt.

The board on Tuesday adopted policies for developing the ordinance.

Giani said the regulations – which will delineate the area where go cups will be legal -- should be written before July.

Mayor Darryl Grennell called for Friday's public forum to give input on the new ordinance to establish the Natchez Leisure and Recreation District, commonly known as a Go Cup Zone. The public forum will be held in the City Council Chambers beginning at 9:00 a.m.

The purpose of the new Go Cup ordinance is to enhance tourism and drive economic development downtown. Grennell wants to hear from the public, especially the downtown community, as to whether the zone should be concentrated closer to the riverfront or should encompass a larger swath of downtown.

Despite Natchez’s “resort status,” Natchez was omitted from the 2016 state legislation that allowed certain cities – like Jackson, Hattiesburg, and Tupelo among others -- to establish Go Cup Zones in which patrons are permitted to leave a bar with their alcoholic beverage as long as they stay within the boundaries of the district. Natchez Director of Tourism Jennifer Combs worked with Sen. Bob Dearing to have Natchez added to the list through legislation passed earlier this year for several cities.

Giani has been working on the proposed ordinance, modeling it after the Ocean Springs’ Go Cup ordinance. He is also coordinating with F.O.R. Natchez consultant Phil Walker of the Walker Collaborative, to make sure that the boundaries are in sync with the findings of the Downtown Revitalization Study, which is currently underway.

At Tuesday's Board of Aldermen's meeting, Giani explained the general purpose of a Go Cup ordinance and potential boundary maps. The board then adopted the following policy guidelines for the development of the boundaries and regulations:

· - Focus on Tourists and Tourism as part of an economic development strategy.
· - Strengthen the Historic Preservation industry by encouraging economically viable uses for historic buildings.
· - Focus on areas with an existing and/or potential critical mass of bars and restaurants.
· - Give careful consideration to the concerns of residents and non-restaurant/bar businesses who are already invested in the area.
· - Avoid areas with existing and/or potential substantial housing.

The timeline for the establishment of the Go Cup District Ordinance is as follows:

· May 23 – Regular Board of Aldermen Meeting: Vote on policy for developing the Go Cup ordinance.
· May 26, 9:00 am – Public Forum in Council Chambers: Seek public input regarding the new ordinance.
· June 13, 11:00 am – Regular Board of Aldermen meeting: Adopt the ordinance, boundaries and other information.
· July 1 – Natchez Leisure and Recreation District Ordinance takes effect, if approved by the state Department of Revenue.




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