October 15, 2013 9:47:38 AM
Starkville in Motion President Ron Cossman says his group will spend the coming weeks educating the community, including new aldermen, about the socio-economic impact sidewalks provide the city.
In their Oct. 2 meeting, Starkville aldermen instructed Community Developer William Snowden to review the city's sidewalk and landscaping ordinances after Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn and Ward 3 Alderman David Little said the rules place unfair, economic development-prohibitive burdens on developers.
Snowden's report is due before the board in December. Until then, Cossman said his organization will take a proactive approach to telling the success story surrounding the Starkville's increased sidewalk construction over the past few administrations.
"We see this as an opportunity to talk about where sidewalks are being used in town, where they need to be and the value they provide to our community," he said. "We have no problem laying out the history and the reasoning behind why you want sidewalks."
SIM recently opened a contest for residents to photograph sidewalk usage or where sidewalk installation would help better serve the community. Entries will be featured on SIM's website and social media accounts to help promote their issue. For more information, visit starkvilleinmotion.org.
Sidewalks provide connectivity for all citizens, Cossman said, and should not be viewed simply as a way to get around Starkville.
"We constantly tie sidewalks to quality of life, which is tied to economic development," Cossman said. "Businesses can locate anywhere they want to, but they choose Starkville because of our high quality of life.
"This is also a key part to the Safe Routes to School initiative. We want every child in Starkville to have the opportunity - infrastructure - to walk to school if they want," he added. "(A previous study) found 25 percent of students live within one mile of their schools, while almost 50 percent live within two miles. We have to create a safe environment where they can safely walk to school. Once built, then we can work on the social context that encourages them to do that. I can't promote this idea if I don't have sidewalks."
Mississippi State University officials formally opened the new Chadwick Lake walking track today, an initiative subsidized by a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi grant. The grant marks a continuing partnership between BCBS and the community. This year, Starkville was awarded a Healthy Hometown designation by the company. The city earned the overall designation of Mississippi's Healthiest Hometown in 2011, an award which made Starkville ineligible for the honor in 2012.
Healthy Starkville, a volunteer group behind Healthy Hometown competition proposals, will focus its next round of submissions on improving infrastructure in northern Starkville and educational outreach, Chairman Chris Gottbrath said.
"The southern part of town has good resources, so we want to re-focus our efforts," he said. "In terms of the Healthy Starkville Committee, we're always looking for new ideas and things to support, but we also like to gather and cheerlead the things we have happening now in our community.
"(Sidewalks) are a major health issue. Walking is one of the simplest ways to allow a person a little more exercise in their daily lives. People respond to it. Build the infrastructure, and we'll reap the benefits," Gottbrath added. "One of the main things I hope the board of aldermen would appreciate is the current ordinance we have didn't come out of one person's brainstorming, it was the result of a community-based effort."
Aldermen are not expected to discuss the sidewalk ordinance during today's 5:30 p.m. meeting at City Hall. The review was added at the table by Wynn during the last meeting without an advance public notice. Agendas are published on Fridays before Tuesday meetings, and the advance copy lacked the action.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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