July 23, 2009 10:36:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- As Richard Kaminski strolled about his backyard with a glass of red wine Wednesday, he had a sunset to see and a breeze to praise.
"Isn''t it beautiful here?" asked Kaminski, who lives in the Stonegate subdivision. "That''s why we bought this place."
But not all was well. He was concerned about what would become of the creek, or riparian corridor, at the end of his yard -- never mind what would turn up on the other side.
Inching closer to the creek, Kaminski, a professor of wildlife and associate dean of the College of Forest Resources at Mississippi State University, lamented the possibility of the creek being replaced with a pipe.
A pipe would not boast the advantages of a natural body of water, which include the ability to send excess water into surrounding soil for absorption, he said.
"A travesty would be to lay a concrete pipe through a creek," he said.
The change would be one element of a rethinking of the 12.7-acre pasture on the other side of the creek, located next to Academy Road. The city''s board of aldermen voted Tuesday to rezone the land from C-2, a general business district, to R-3A, a single-family, medium-density area. About 50 people attended the meeting.
John Gaskin, who lost to Eric Parker in the race for alderman of Ward 3 this year, circulated two petitions against the rezoning in recent weeks around his own Academy Place subdivision as well as the one in which Kaminski lives, attracting almost 90 signatures, and Kaminski and others who live near the pasture were still wound up about the news Wednesday.
Kaminski said he believes the land surrounding the creek is a wetland, which may pose a problem for developer Frank Brewer.
"When they start developing," he said, "as a wetland ecologist, I would encourage them to hire a certified wetland delineator to determine whether or not this area truly classifies as a wetland. If it does, they need a permit from section 404 from the Clean Water Act to develop on a wetland. If they develop on a wetland, they must mitigate their impacts at the site or elsewhere."
William Monroe, who gave a presentation on water issues relating to the rezoning at last week''s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, was not at Tuesday''s board of aldermen''s meeting. Neither was his wife, Jean Higginbotham. Both were in Washington, D.C., in preparation for an academic conference. But their son Mark Monroe let them know what happened as soon as he left the meeting.
After Mark Monroe told his father, "it was silent for about 15 seconds," he said. "And then, very softly, he''s like, you know, ''Thank you for telling me. I''ll speak to you later.'' I could tell he was very upset."
Mark Monroe, 22, who graduated from MSU with a bachelor''s degree in food science in May, stood on a footbridge just outside the backyard of the Monroes'' house in the Stonegate subdivision and voiced his family''s disappointment with the rezoning.
"We feel that there was a major injustice last night," he said. "We were very upset to see the way the Starkville leaders have worked with the developers. There''s no check and balance."
He said water from the drainage ditch about two and a half feet under the footbridge had risen up three times this spring, and once the high water mark was above the footbridge. He was worried about what could happen if the pipe forces water in the ditch to become backed up.
Angie Riffell was similarly troubled by issues of water.
For three summers in a row, she said, a storm sewer under their front yard leading to the drainage ditch had burst, and water appeared amid the grass.
"It can''t hold current capability, and so what will happen with increased capacity?" she asked.
In any case, she added, referring to the possibility of tall trees around the pasture being chopped down, "We don''t want intrusion into our secluded neighborhood. We like the buffer zone."
Bob Smith, who has owned the pasture for 22 years, had a different take on the news of the rezoning.
"It''s a much better deal for the residents who live around the area, because otherwise, in commercial C-2, so many businesses could''ve been put in there, which could''ve reduced the value of their homes," he said.
"Would you rather ... it back up to a metal welding shop or a nice single-family house with landscaped yards?" he added.
Meanwhile, on the pasture, Jerry Gill was replacing the shoes on his four horses. Gill, who said he has been renting the land from Smith for the last four or five years, had heard the news but did not sound concerned.
"They''ll probably reduce the size of the pasture till it''s all gone," he said. "That''s my guess. It''ll go slow."
1. Lowndes Narcotics Unit searching for 10 suspects COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. The accidental entrepreneurs STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
3. Two arrested in Motel 6 robbery COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. First Vote: A Dispatch special series COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
5. Starkville man arrested for statutory rape COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY