May 24, 2015

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Ergon to appeal parking lot landscaping

Published 11:30 am Thursday, May 8, 2014

Whether Ergon Refining will have to landscape and install parking islands on the parking lot for the company’s new building complex will be in the hands of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Kenneth Dillard, vice president for refining at Ergon, said the company will appeal a decision Tuesday by the Vicksburg Planning Commission denying the company’s request for a variance exempting them from provisions in the city’s building code requiring parking islands and landscaped parking lots with trees.

The commission, sitting as the Board of Zoning Appeals, voted 3-3 on the variance request, shooting it down.

Zoning administrator Dalton McCarty said Ergon had presented a revised site plan that showed no landscaping on the parking lot to the city’s site plan committee, a six-member committee that reviews plans to ensure builders meet city ordinances and building codes and fire safety codes.

McCarty, a member of the committee, said Ergon sought a hardship ruling allowing the company to deviate from the code, claiming that following the codes would create a maintenance problem. He said the committee did not find a hardship existed.

He said the parking islands, which under the code are put at the end of the parking rows and be at least eight feet wide and have a curb at least six inches high, are designed to protect cars at the end of the parking rows and serve as planters for trees.

Ergon is building a new administration building and relocating several labs to a site outside the refinery to comply to with Occupational Health and Safety Administration regulations. Dillard said the company will landscape the areas around the building, but trying to landscape the parking lot would be a difficult project, adding he did not believe the company would be able to properly maintain the plants in the parking islands.

The ordinance requiring building and parking lot landscaping was approved in 2006 under the Laurence Leyens administration.

“I think the spirit of the ordinance was an attempt to beautify the corridors into Vicksburg, if I remember correctly,” said Wayne Mansfield, Warren County Port Commission director who was Vicksburg city planning director when the ordinance was passed. “That was the reason for it. Consideration was not given for industrial areas (Ergon is in an area zoned heavy industry).”

Mansfield said the ordinance was not compatible with Ergon’s expansion plans, adding there are no landscaped areas at any of the plants in the port area.

“If you go through the port area and see all the truck traffic, all the rail traffic and the barge traffic, it’s not conducive to maintaining landscape,” he said. “This is an industrial area, it’s not an attempt to beautify. It’s an attempt to create jobs.”

Board member Robert Clingan said he drove through the port area on Haining Road, adding he saw little evidence of landscaping.

“I saw 18-wheelers, railroad tracks and train cars,” he said, adding he saw four trees at the Ergon site.

Board member David Sessums asked Dillard to explain the hardship Ergon faced by complying with the ordinance.

“I really feel like voting for this, but you’ve got to explain where there’s a hardship,” he said.

In another matter, the board voted 6-0 to grant an exception to Yvonne Mixon to operate a fast food restaurant at 3620 U.S. 61 South with the condition she present a new site plan for city approval.

Mixon’s original plan had traffic backing out from the business instead of moving forward into traffic, as required by city ordinance.