Council denies zoning request appeal for Mandalay Villas


The Hattiesburg City Council voted Tuesday to uphold the Planning Commission’s March 17 denial of a zoning request for 49 lots in a Ward 1 subdivision, and then decided to set zoning for the area to require smaller homes for the lots.

The subdivision, known as Mandalay Villas, is located at the intersection of J. Ed Turner Drive and Topanga Trail. Property owners Jeff Sims and Ashley Robinson presented their request for the appeal to the City Council during a public hearing on Monday.

Sims said he and Robinson wanted the zoning to be set at R-1B (Single-Family Residential), dividing the 14.14-acre land into 49 lots. However, if the property was set to R-1A, Sims said 43 of the 49 lots would not conform.

“We would like to build the largest quality homes possible on these legally existing platted lots,” Sims wrote in his email to the City Council on appeal. “The largest, most attractive homes can be built on these lots with R-1B zoning and 5-foot side setbacks. R-1A standards would limit us to the construction of a smaller and less attractive home.”

In addressing the appeal, Ward 1 Councilman Jeffrey George said Tuesday that although he appreciated the discussion of the issue during the public hearing, he made a motion to zone the area R-1A. The City Council voted unanimously to approve the motion after George addressed the group.

“I appreciate everyone being here today about this matter and those that attended the public hearing (Monday) that aren’t able to be here today,” he said. “I appreciate your coming to express your opinion and getting involved in what’s happening in our city.

“(Monday) was a great example of what quality public discourse looks like. … I think you all represented your thoughts and feelings well with passion and also with conviction.”

George asked for the same participation in other discussions that will improve the city and strengthen the community. He also thanked the developers for investing in the city, especially Ward 1.

“After listening to the opinions of the residents I represent, I have heard your concerns involving the infrastructure and the city services in this area,” he said. “Those are very valid concerns and I commit to you that this administration and I will continue to work to address those things. I also understand your desire to maintain and improve your property values and continue to enjoy the quality of life that you enjoy in this area. This, too, is my priority for Ward 1 and for all of my city.

“Having said that, I believe it is in the best interest of our city, in accordance with the Comprehensive Plan, to see this area zoned R-1A.”

Ward 4 Councilwoman Mary Dryden said she agreed with George’s assessment.

“I believe that the construction of the homes appears beautiful,” she said. “Yet there needs to be a different kind of transition from 5-acre lot.”

Attorney Seth Hunter spoke for Wesley Kelsey Hunter and Larry Gunn, residents who opposed the R-1B zoning. Other local residents who were listed as opposing the R-1B classification were John Eye, Eric Weill, Ray Sims Jr., Carl Nicolson and David Gustafson.