Trace height exemption bill dies

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Legislation died during the final week of the 2013 session that would have eased the height restrictions on land adjacent to the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi.
House Transportation Chairman Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, said the proposal died because a description of the building that needed the exemption could not be made available to Natchez Trace Parkway officials.
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, as well as school buildings and church structures.
The law was amended in the early 2000s to provide those exemptions. The original law, which had no exemptions, was passed in 1988.
The bill filed in the 2013 session would have eased those restrictions for buildings to be constructed within 1,000 feet of the Parkway as long as they were hidden by topography or vegetation.
The bill apparently was filed for a group wanting to build an assisted living home in the Jackson area.
The bill passed the Senate without a dissenting vote, but ran into trouble in the House where Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, and others whose districts included the Trace voiced concerns.
Johnson said at the time he would block the legislation unless it had the approval of Natchez Trace officials.
The 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 width of the Parkway varies. The average width is about 800 feet, acting Parkway Superintendent Dale Wilkerson said, but could be as little as 200 feet, meaning it would expand out only 100 feet from the yellow line of the roadway. In some places, where there are exhibits, the width is as much as a mile.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com