July 22, 2009 10:55:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- The Starkville Board of Aldermen approved a controversial zoning change Tuesday night, despite the wishes of several dozen residents who showed up in opposition.
With a 5-1 vote, the board approved the rezoning of 12.7 acres on Academy Road from a C-2 general business district to a R-3A single-family, medium density zone. The land, which is a pasture, is located on the south side of Academy Road, east of Hummingbird Lane.
Only Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver voted against the rezoning. Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker recused himself from the vote because until recently he worked with the land''s developer, Frank Brewer.
Brewer plans to build 63 single-family homes on the property, according to plans filed with the city.
Residents of the nearby Academy Place and Stonegate subdivisions, however, were adamantly against the zoning change and housing plans. After the meeting, John Gaskin, who serves as president of the Academy Place Homeowner''s Association, wasn''t happy with the board.
"I seriously think they dropped the ball on this one," Gaskin said.
Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey made the motion to approve the zoning change "based on changing conditions in the area," he said. Corey cited three or four other recent zoning changes near the site, from business districts to residential.
The city''s planning and zoning commission last week recommended aldermen approve the rezoning. City Planner Ben Griffith did, as well.
Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said he voted in favor of the rezoning because he respects the judgement of the city''s planners.
"I really trust the opinion of these individuals I hold in high regard," Dumas said.
Still, Gaskin and attorney John Crecink, who was representing the Academy Place Homeowner''s Association, said conditions in the area have not changed since last year at this time, when the former Board of Aldermen denied Brewer''s request to rezone the property from a C-2 district to a R-3 multi-family district. The same group of residents last year protested the C-2 to R-3 request.
"No change has happened in the past year," Gaskin said.
In the time since last summer, Griffith drew up the R-3A district, saying the "multi-family" title in the R-3 district was confusing to some. Nearby residents thought developers could construct apartment buildings in an R-3 district, but that''s not the case, Griffith said, though it does allow duplexes and triplexes. The R-3A single-family district doesn''t allow duplexes or triplexes.
Attorney John Moore, who spoke to the Board of Aldermen with Brewer, said the property has been for sale for roughly a decade, but still has received no takers. He and Brewer said the parcel probably would remain on the market if it remained a commercial property.
"This property is never going to move as a C-2," Moore said. "There''s way too much commercial property in Starkville already."
Aldermen still must approve Brewer''s land development plans, but Gaskin said the city might be in store for a legal battle about the zoning change.
"We''ll talk about our legal options tomorrow," Gaskin said, but did not elaborate.
Brewer, on the other hand, was relieved aldermen approved the rezoning.
"I just want to thank the board for trusting their planning and zoning people," Brewer said.
In other business, the Board of Aldermen approved the striping of new bicycle lanes on two heavily traveled streets in town.
The first new lanes will run along each side of Jackson Street, from Lampkin Street to Green Street. This stretch of road recently was paved with city funds.
New striping will include bicycle lanes 4 1/2 feet wide on each side. Of the 4 1/2 feet, 3 feet will be asphalt while the remaining 18 inches will be concrete gutter.
The second set of new lanes will run along each side of Montgomery Street, from Lampkin Street to Yellow Jacket Drive. Those lanes also will be 4 1/2 feet in width.
Both the Jackson and Montgomery Street bike lanes eventually will be extended when the city paves the remainder of those roads with federal stimulus dollars.
When the stimulus sections are done, the path will extend all the way to Highway 12 on Jackson Street. On Montgomery Street, meanwhile, the lanes will continue to Locksley Way, then stop before picking up again from Lynn Lane to Academy Road.
The lanes on Montgomery Street also would extend a few blocks north from Lampkin Street, up to Highway 182.
Jim Gafford, who spoke on behalf of the city''s sidewalk committee, said the new lanes will make the roads safer for cyclists and motorists.
"We''re really not trying to promote more cycling; we''re trying to promote safety," Gafford said. "The cyclists are already out there."
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