by Calvin Ishee

After countless attacks from a number of Pass Christian residents over the years as well as Mayor Chipper McDermott’s recent willingness to reevaluate the use of the SmartCode, at Tuesday’s Planning Commission several changes were proposed. Albeit small changes and technical in nature, the Planning Commission just about went page by page to start the process of making changes to the SmartCode.

The SmartCode was implemented post Katrina in an effort to bring effective and consistent building and construction standards to the City of Pass Christian. Some folks love “the code” and some simply hate it.  Last year in a letter from a local citizen contesting a project proposal, he referred to it as the “dumb code”.  Another local resident praised it because he found it “easy to understand and navigate”.  So the current SmartCode appears to be a love hate proposition for city residents.

The meeting began with a quorum of five of the nine Commissioners present for the meeting.  Ken Austin chaired the meeting due to the absence of the Chairman as well as others due to illness and a family emergency. Austin began by setting the ground rules of the meeting of what would NOT  be discussed: 1.) a moratorium, 2.) Menge Ave/East Second Street Project and 3.) any zoning changes. He also told those 10 or so residents in attendance that public input would be limited to three minutes. Also on hand were City Attorney Malcom Jones and outgoing City Planner Danit Simon.

After the rules were set Simon painstakingly outlined the proposed changes beginning with the name change from SmartCode to The City of Pass Christian’s Development Code. At this point the name change appears symbolic since the majority of the current SmartCode remains unchanged. Without going into the details of every proposed change, some items of note were the name change, the already Board approved elimination of the Zoning Board, revisions to various portions of the Specific Function Chart which outlines use of property in each zone, guidelines for RV Parks, various process/approval changes, etc. Those interested in the specific changes can visit City Hall.

In a final note, according to Austin the citizens will have a say in the future of the SmartCode when the City begins developing it’s new master plan, sometime in 2021.