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Starkville zoning commission holds C Spire tower request


David Miller



The Starkville Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday tabled a request from C Spire to erect a cellular service tower along Highway 25. 


The commission was faced with a string of issues, including conflict between C Spire and neighboring property owner RMR Investment Co., which said the 120-foot monopole tower would affect the aesthetics of the area and drive down property value.  


On advice from City Attorney Chris Latimer, the commission elected not to discuss the variance issues involved -- the tower is 0.16 miles too close to the nearest residential area (Highland Estates) -- and an existing covenant between RMR and Pinelake Church, which will lease the land to C Spire. RMR dedicated the land to Pinelake under the conditions that any utilities be kept underground and any structures built on the property be finished with brick.  


The board voted 4-1 -- Commissioner Jeremy Murdock cast the nay vote -- to table the request for its January meeting. Murdock initially made a motion to analyze the request under special-use guidelines set forth in the city's current ordinance, but the motion died with three nay votes. 


Latimer advised the commission to let the Board of Adjustments and Appeals handle the dimensions variance and refrain from discussing the covenant between RMR and Pinelake. 


"They are seeking an enormous variance," RMR attorney James Peden said. "We oppose the tower because such a tall and unattractive structure affects property value. Persons do not want to purchase property in close proximity to a tall tower." 


RMR owns 300 acres of adjacent property to the west side of the Highway 25 Bypass and 50 acres to the east side of the bypass. 


C Spire's attorney, John Wade, said the tower should fall under permitted use in the commercial zone because it is within the height-to-distance ratio from Highland Estates. C Spire said the site was chosen because it would best resolve coverage issues in the area and would ease some of the overload of other towers.  


"There was a specific design requirement they gave us to solve this coverage problem, which is why we chose this area," Wade said. "There is no evidence in record that having a cell tower in the area diminishes property value." 


Peden and Wade will meet before the January meeting to discuss other locations on the property.  


In other news, the commission unanimously voted to repeal and replace its chart of permitted land uses. Following a public hearing in which no members of the public commented for or against the measure, the commission finalized a handful of changes before suggesting approval for the Board of Aldermen.  


Murdock requested that two-family dwellings and personal services be categorized as conditional use in low-rural zones. He also suggested indoor recreational and entertainment use in a manufacturing zone be conditional, as well as farm support in agricultural zones. In all four cases, the use was not permitted in the aforementioned zone. 


The commission also unanimously approved a proposed ordinance for form-based codes for corridors to Mississippi State University. To rezone the target areas along Highway 182 and downtown, the commission needed to pass the measure contingent upon finding. The districts have experienced significant change. City Planner Ben Griffith outlined such in his staff report, citing the mixed-use development that's cropped up in the past several years.  


Starkville resident Mark Guyton, who owns property along several of the proposed corridors that will be rezoned, expressed concern that adding the "downtown/MSU corridors code" would create more confusion for developers. 


"We're reaching a level of complexity that isn't beneficial," Guyton said. "There seems to be a hodgepodge with our rules." 


Commissioner Jason Walker said that while the form-based codes may appear convoluted, he reminded Guyton the codes are intended to streamline the development process. Form-based codes are an alternative to traditional zoning that shapes construction to achieve a community vision. Form-based codes encourage certain types of development through more specific architectural guidelines. 


"It should make development that's going to occur in those areas more coherent," Walker said.




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