Natchez Trace bill revived, for time

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Legislation to ease the height restrictions for buildings near the Natchez Trace Parkway was revived Tuesday, but a key committee chair says he wants to ensure that if changes are made they do not negatively impact the rustic nature of the federal parkway.
House Transportation Chair Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, was able to revive the bill, which was defeated last week by the House, by putting language in the bill that essentially would repeal it before it takes effect.
The “reverse repealer” will ensure that the Senate, which passed the bill earlier this session without a dissenting vote, will have to invite negotiations with the House on the issue.
In the negotiations, Johnson said he wants to know more about the planned assisted living community near the Trace in the Jackson area, which is the reason given for the legislation to ease the height restrictions. Plus, he said he wants Natchez Trace officials to be involved in any negotiations regarding the easing of the height restrictions.
“Either that or we will kill the bill,” Johnson said.
The federal Parkway, which is headquartered in Tupelo, runs from Natchez, through northwest Alabama and ends west of Nashville. It covers 444 miles and 55,000 acres.
The legislation would allow along the Mississippi section for buildings to be constructed within 1,000 feet of the Parkway as long as they are hidden by topography or vegetation. Johnson changed the bill to take out vegetation, meaning the building would have to be hidden by a hill or cliff.
Under current law, structures within a 1,000 feet of the Parkway’s boundaries in Mississippi cannot be more than 35 feet tall with the exception of some agriculture structures such as silos, school buildings and church structures.
The law has been amended in the past for the Harrisburg Baptist Church steeple and for the fine arts center at Tupelo High School.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com