SUMMIT, Miss. (AP) — Summit officials have declared a moratorium on new doctor offices along the town's main business thoroughfare.
The Town Council's decision came after Dr. Jennifer Gholson bought the former Golden Hushpuppy restaurant building at the corner of Robb Street and U.S. Highway 51 to comply with an ordinance requiring doctors to have five parking spaces per employee.
Since Gholson's office has seven employees, she needs 35 parking spaces to comply with the law — far more than what's available on Robb Street.
Seeing a potential for doctors' offices to take parking spaces from retailers — a source of sales tax dollars — the council decided to limit medical facilities on Robb Street and review ordinances covering them.
The Enterprise-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1nxmZxK) the parking issue is at the heart of the moratorium.
"Street parking is not an option" for doctors' offices, Mayor Percy Robinson said. "My merchants downtown, they need that. We're not going to give leeway so their patients can park downtown. Doctors' offices have to have so many parking spaces, and there's no way you can get them downtown."
Robinson said the moratorium will only affect new medical operations, not Gholson's office.
"She's already there, so this moratorium is not about her. It's to prevent any other doctors' offices from coming in the downtown business district," he said.
Local real estate agent Debbie Stovall said that from an economic standpoint, the town would be better served by having retailers along Robb Street.
"We really need the revenue of retail stores, so that's what we're hoping to fill up with these other businesses," she said.
The town has had a recent rocky experience with medical clinics. The only other medical facility to be located along Robb Street in recent years is the Rose Cancer Center, which was shut down after its owner was sent to prison for 20 years in a multimillion-dollar Medicaid fraud.
Town officials have lamented that the property has languished for years, preventing another business from moving in and contributing to the tax base.
Information from: Enterprise-Journal, http://www.enterprise-journal.com