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Starkville officials interested in annexation study

 

Carl Smith

 

Starkville aldermen could contract an Oxford-based planning firm, Slaughter and Associates, to begin a preliminary study identifying possible future annexation territory. 

 

The board is slated to discuss entering into contract negotiations for the service Tuesday, but city officials tempered the agenda item by calling it a preliminary part of a possible long-term project. 

 

Slaughter and Associates is currently producing a comprehensive plan, which includes land-use charts and an outline of future use, for county supervisors.  

 

Areas east of Starkville, especially those toward Mississippi State University's campus, are logical choices for possible annexation in the future, city officials confirmed Friday; however, none of Starkville's leaders specifically identified land they would like to see added into the municipality's boundaries. 

 

Logically, though, five areas are prime targets for possible inclusion, as they would add increased sales tax receipts, property values and population to Starkville: 

 

■ The portion of Miss. Highway 182 from the Miss. Highway 12 bypass on to the U.S. Highway 82 connection consists of mostly Mississippi State University-owned land, however Starkville Ford- 

 

Lincoln, Inc., Microtel Inn and Suites by Wyndham Hotels and other retail development account for sales taxes not reimbursed by the state to Starkville. Also, the area has a low population count, so few residents would actually be impacted by a potential annexation 

 

■ Current and planned housing developments in the Oktoc and Blackjack communities near Mississippi State could provide significant boons for ad valorem values. Starkville is expected to grow out into the county areas surrounding MSU, and the city currently provides some services, like water and sewage, for the area. About $100 million worth of apartment developments are in the works in this area. 

 

■ Although property values aren't expected to come with the public institution of higher learning, annexing MSU's campus could add a significant increase to population figures due to on-campus housing. Officials, however, noted census efforts with large universities prove problematic at times, and more study is needed to identify if Starkville could claim the territory and do it in a way that doesn't adversely impact the university. 

 

■ South Montgomery's high-value homes and land parcels could also provide a significant addition to the city's ad valorem intake. Starkville operates a water treatment facility near in the area. 

 

■ The Links at Starkville apartments west of Walmart also provides a logical annexation area as the development is located in close proximity to city limits. 

 

Mike Slaughter, owner and founder of Slaughter and Associates, declined to discuss Starkville annexation specifics since his organization has not yet been contracted for work but did say a potential study would involve identifying logical expansion areas and their associated infrastructure, population statistics, land usage and potential revenue and expenditure numbers. 

 

On average, that process takes three to six months, he said. 

 

If the city moves forward with annexation, it must provide the same capacity of city services -- water, sewer, electricity, police, fire, sanitation and others -- to the new area as received within Starkville's current borders. Most municipalities, he said, annex territory to protect tax bases. 

 

"In Mississippi, if a business is located inside a city, 7 percent (sales tax) is sent to Jackson, and 18.5 percent of that 7 percent comes back to the city. If it's located in the county, the 7 percent goes to  

 

Jackson, and none of it comes back to a local community directly. That's a revenue stream that doesn't impact anyone (since businesses are required to pay sales tax within or outside of municipality),"  

 

Slaughter said. 

 

Court systems, he said, have identified 12 significant marks municipalities must reach or show to proceed with expansion: the municipality is in need for expansion; the potential inclusion area is within the city's path of growth; the city can eliminate potential health hazards, including sewage and waste disposals; the municipality has the financial ability to make improvements and provide services; a need exists for zoning and planning within the target area; municipal services are needed; no natural barriers will prevent services from reaching the expansion; the city had a satisfactory experience with previous annexation efforts; economic benefit for those who live in the proposed annexation area; minority voters would be protected in an expansion; property owners benefit from the proximity to the city without paying their fair share; and a final catch-all provision that takes into account unspecified-yet-important conditions. 

 

"With all the development going on near campus and other areas of town, it's prudent to at least take a look at the issue," Ward 5 Alderman Scott Maynard said. "I can easily see MSU and its surrounding areas as the center of town in 40 years."

 

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch

 

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