ST. MARTIN -- Jackson County has upscale plans for Cook Road, and it's more than just straightening the bad curves and widening the road to five lanes.
The county announced Monday it wants to institute a new type of zoning along both sides to control the look of the area in hopes of attracting high-quality businesses. The idea is to become a destination for shoppers -- The Cook Road Corridor.
The plan was developed this year with a local steering committee.
Cook Road runs parallel to Interstate 10 just north of the interstate, and connects the Sangani Boulevard shopping area with Jackson County's Tucker Road.
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It's very narrow, has no shoulders and is heavily used by drivers trying to get to the Sangani shopping area or Harrison County without getting onto the interstate.
The county has already spent $8 million studying the best route, buying rights of way to widen and straighten the road and planning a future for the corridor. It's now looking for the $20 million it will need to do the actual construction, perhaps in phases.
But before the construction begins, Jackson County leaders are looking at putting in place a district called C-4, new zoning, corridor commercial. There is also a half-mile of residential along the road that will remain residential.
The goal is to have the new commercial zone in place and ready for a vote by the Board of Supervisors' first meeting in January. In the meantime, the Planning Commission will adopt a recommendation and hold a public hearing.
Nashville planner John Houghton filled in details for the supervisors Monday.
The plan is to have a bike path and sidewalks. There would be landscaping between the buildings and the road so there's not such a sea of asphalt. Signs will be a regulated height and size.
The commercial area will have a look.
No gas stations unless they're part of an established business. No junk yards, auto storage, camper or trailer parks, check-cashing businesses, snow-cone stands, kennels, mini-warehouses, pawn shops, quick lubes, lumber yards or tire sales. Billboards will be limited.
It will encourage clinics, retail sales, restaurants and professional offices among other things. There will be lot and development standards.
"We don't want to restrict so much that development won't occur," said County Administrator Brian Fulton. "But we want to create an area that will attract create an environment of consistent commercial development."
Supervisor John McKay said it will be crucial "to have upscale development and no hodge-podge in an area where we're dependent on economic development from Sangani Boulevard."
The Gulf Regional Planning Commission's David Taylor said it will be "a place apart, a corridor that will do Jackson County proud," and it will be safer to travel.