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Downtown rezoning to get additional public hearings

 

David Miller

 

Starkville's implementation of form-based codes in downtown and university corridors will have two more rounds of public hearings.  

 

The Starkville Board of Aldermen on Tuesday had its second hearing on the potential rezoning of more than 200 parcels of land to encourage mixed development in the city's most rapidly developing areas. The form-based code model is a way of regulating development to allow more flexibility. 

 

Because of a string of changes to the proposed code by the Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this month and Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas on Tuesday night, the board scheduled an additional public hearing for its second meeting in January. The board will receive a revised, up-to-date copy of the new ordinance at its Jan. 3 meeting. Placemakers planning firm, which helped the city develop the ordinance and revised zoning map, will be on hand to answer any further questions from the board and public. 

 

After the next two meetings in January, the board will vote to amend its zoning map with new "transect districts" along Highway 182, Main Street, downtown, University Drive and Russell Street. 

 

No one spoke against the measure, but citizen Mark Guyton encouraged the board to give property owners in each transect district better notice of the ordinance. Guyton said many of the property owners are not aware that the amended codes and zoning map is "a major rezoning." 

 

"Some of my friends thought it was like a PUD (planned unit development), something you could opt into," Guyton said. "We need some well-informed public hearings on this." 

 

Dumas said he's fielded similar inquiries from residents but noted earlier work sessions where the intent was rezoning the specific areas. Additionally, the city, under state statute, gave adequate notice of public hearings. 

 

Developing form-based codes has been on the city's agenda since 2005, when a comprehensive plan was adopted. Some of the suggested ordinance changes in the document have been enacted, while many -- like form-based codes -- have not.  

 

Growing enrollment at Mississippi State University has sparked development along the downtown and university corridors, but additional growth has been hindered by current zoning regulations.  

 

Dumas noted that with a revised set of codes, a developer could have a multistory building with retail, office and residential space on separate floors. 

 

"We're offering a different suite of uses," Dumas said. "It's been a very developer-friendly model. We're encouraging more architecture-friendly environments that really address the urbanity of what we see this being." 

 

The new codes and zoning map also would ease parking lot requirements and, in certain areas, encourage the construction of balconies over sidewalks. 

 

Developer Jeremy Tabor, who has served on various planning committees, offered support for the new codes. 

 

"I've reviewed this document with the changes and have provided it to a lot of people in the building community," he said, "and it's gotten some positive response."

 

 

 

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