he Wiggins Board of Aldermen initiated a text amendment to allow single-family dwellings, voting against most downtown property owners, the city-appointed planning commission, and the land code administration’s recommendations.
There has never been any rule prohibiting people from living in downtown Wiggins. However, the current ordinance allows commercial properties to be classified as mixed-use, with living quarters separated from a commercial business front since 2013.
“It is my recommendation and the planning commission’s recommendation that you do not initiate this text amendment based on the info from the property owners,” Land Code Administrator John Prickett told the Aldermen. “That is why we did the survey.”
The survey results, released this week, sought input from the 26 property owners in the C-2 district along the 100 block of Pine Avenue East and the 100 and 200 blocks of First Street South.
Out of the 22 responding property owners, 67 percent voted against allowing new single-family dwellings, and 79 percent voted favor more mixed-use residences. The votes were weighted due to some owners having multiple properties in the surveyed area. When each survey was counted as a single vote, the support to enforce the current ordinances increased to 81 percent and 64 percent, respectively.
“I think the regulations make sense as is, and the few properties that have been grandfathered in previously can fall into the current regulations after the current tenants leave,” one anonymous property owner said.
“High-end apartments are not an issue, but when run down commercial buildings are filled with residential occupancy it creates a low standard for beautification. Please keep in mind of other cities with beautiful downtowns, there are no residential occupants on their street level. Almost every run-down city allows this; please don’t lower our standards to please a few,” wrote another respondent.
Few respondents were adamant about loosening the restrictions on single-family dwellings.
“I really believe the fewer regulations we have, the better off we will be,” one surveyed property owner said. “We do need to ensure that the street is well kept and orderly. I have observed that more regulations absolutely do not lend themselves to a healthy and productive business environment.”
Ward 1 Alderwoman Brittany Harris made the motion to initiate the text change, seconded by Alderwoman-at-large Sharon Jones-Crockett. With Ward 3 Alderman Damian McKay abstaining, Ward 2 Alderman Ron Dyal cast the final vote.
“No one wants to invest in businesses there because they know they are probably not going to thrive,” Harris said. “It’s time for an upgrade on Pine Hill.”
Alderman Dyal said he voted to initiate the text amendment to start a discussion on how Wiggins can improve the ordinances for everyone.
“This is just the beginning process,” Dyal said. “We have got to do something different because the downtown area is not moving forward.”
The text amendment procedures will now require the city to prepare a new wording for the ordinance followed by a public hearing. Once the city is satisfied, the Board of Aldermen will have a final vote to approve or disapprove.
The procedure will take no fewer than one month to complete.
Dyal said he wants to see an ordinance on the books that bring more unity between property owners.
After reviewing the feedback from property owners, he believes in some possible compromises.
Dyal expects the discussion to delay a final vote until more unity on what should be enforced.
“We’re talking about probably three months down the line before we finish anything,” he said.