Article Comment 

Sidewalk, stormwater ordinances irk builder

 

Tim Pratt

 

Builder Clayton Richardson is fed up with Starkville''s stormwater and sidewalk ordinances, saying the regulations are too strict and are scaring away developers. 

 

"We''ve now come to the point that we''re not building in Starkville because of the things that were added: stormwater and (sidewalks)," Richardson said Tuesday to the city''s Board of Aldermen.  

 

Richardson made the comment during a public hearing on proposed amendments to the city''s sidewalk ordinance, a majority of which are intended to clarify the sidewalk committee and previous Board of Aldermen''s intentions, requiring all new commercial and residential developments to be built with sidewalks.  

 

Richardson wants to build a commercial development at the corner of Stark Road and Columbus Avenue, and the ordinance would require him to construct sidewalks on his property along both streets. He estimates it will cost an extra $13,500 to build the walkways.  

 

The builder''s main gripe, however, is that no adjacent properties along Stark Road or Columbus Avenue have sidewalks, so the walkways would end at his property lines.  

 

"I''m not opposed to sidewalks, but I am opposed to singling out a project like this," Richardson told the Board of Aldermen. "Sidewalks are good for the community. Let''s pay for them through taxes. Let''s all of us pay for them." 

 

He also takes issue with the city''s controversial stormwater ordinance, which has drawn scorn from builders over the past year for the way it is interpreted by the Board of Aldermen.  

 

One section of the ordinance says it is applicable to any residential development of four acres or more and any non-residential development of three acres or more. It''s also applicable, as written, to any development having less than four acres and more than two which has 50 percent or more impervious surface. 

 

The problem, however, comes when developers read the next section of the ordinance, which says, "No development should be undertaken that increases the rate of surface runoff to downstream property owners or drainage systems." 

 

Since the previous Board of Aldermen interpreted the second section of the ordinance to mean no development should be undertaken which increases the rate of surface water runoff downstream, regardless of the acreage, several developers have complained the standards are too strict and put their projects on hold. Developers also have argued the ordinance should be applicable only to properties delineated in the first section, which only applies to residential developments of four acres or more and non-residential developments of three acres or more.  

 

The issue finally came to a head Oct. 6 when Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker made a motion to interpret the ordinance based on the first section, which only would make it applicable to properties larger than the three and four-acre requirements, and with the 50 percent impervious surface standards. 

 

Parker, former co-owner of B&P Developers, was joined in support of the minimum acreage requirements by Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn Sr, who each voted in favor of the three and four-acre interpretation. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk and Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey voted against Parker''s motion because it would have been contrary to the way the city has interpreted the ordinance over the past year, which applies the stormwater runoff regulations to properties of any acreage. 

 

Because the vote was tied 3-3 and Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas abstained, the decision ultimately was left up to Mayor Parker Wiseman, who voted against Parker''s motion and left developers to contend with the stricter second interpretation.  

 

The city has formed an ad hoc committee of aldermen, planners and developers to study possible amendments to the stormwater ordinance.  

 

A second public hearing on the sidewalk ordinance is scheduled for the Board of Aldermen''s next meeting, set for Nov. 3 at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall.

 

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment Starkpatch commented at 10/21/2009 12:00:00 PM:

It's hypocritical (as well as unethical) for Eric Parker, a builder and developer, to sit on the Board and push for an interpretation of the stormwater ordinance that stands to save (thus make) himself and his cronies a lot of money. So much for putting the good of the people ahead of the good of his own pocketbook. I guess we are seeing his motiviation for running for Alderman!

 

Article Comment MB commented at 10/21/2009 1:57:00 PM:

Starkville is NOT a builder friendly city! Who ever came up with the crazy sidewalk ordinance was smoking crack!! The board does need someone that knows the construction business. I know Parker was elected but do you want to hire a school teacher to handle construction issues? It is good to have a board made up of people with knowledge on different issues. If I was a builder or contractor I would move my operations out in the county and build there. I have talked to several that were looking at doing that.

 

Article Comment BigDawg commented at 10/21/2009 2:04:00 PM:

Someone has to build the first sidewalk on any street. I applaud the Starkville aldermen for trying to improve their city. Any builder is free not to build in Starkville. They will be quickly replaced by new ones.

 

Article Comment Starkpatch commented at 10/21/2009 4:07:00 PM:

MB-

No- I want an ENGINEER who concentrates on hydrology issues to make the recomendation- not a group of builders and their buddies, which is who was named to the ad-hoc committee.

Look at all the crap that has been built- and approved- in Starkville and tell me again (with a straight face) that Starkville is not builder-friendly. Starkville has historically been builder-run (and still is as long as a Spruill is in City Hall).

IMO, if some builders don't want to follow the rules and build decent, high quality buildings that don't flood or flood others, then those certain builders are not needed in Starkville.

As far as the county, we SEE what happens when some builders have no codes to follow- look at Highlands. Starkville needs strong codes and code enforcement.

 

Article Comment TA commented at 10/21/2009 9:04:00 PM:

There is a local engineer on the stormwater committee. The applicability of the ordinance is clear in the first section- you can't just interpet laws one way today and another way tommorrow.

 

Article Comment Starkdump commented at 10/22/2009 6:54:00 AM:

A friend of mine once commented that "Starkville is the most aptly named city in America." The fact is that our written codes are 20+ years behind the rest of the country, and we don't even enforce these. Our local JoeBob builders would be shocked to see what other "real" cities require of development.

Keep increasing the standards, but enforcement needs to be strict AND consistent. If our so-called developers don't like it, they can practice their trade elsewhere. If building needs to be done, then someone will come do it.

PS: The sidewalk ordinance is just fine. Since the city hasn't built a sidewalk since 1940, it is very likely any new sidewalks will lead to nowhere. That will be remedied after a few years when the other properties (re)develop. I've see it happen in other places I live.

 

Article Comment Starkpatch commented at 10/22/2009 9:29:00 AM:

You are correct- Other cities do just fine with STRICT codes and enforcement. Look at Madison, MS, where they force WalMart and Lowes to build stores that look like the Taj Mahal. And yet, developers still want to build there.

 

Article Comment Concerned Citizen commented at 10/22/2009 4:22:00 PM:

The developers always do the right thing, yeah right! Remember the "Sugar Shacks" on N. Montgomery, "New Country Living" on New Light Road, anything west of Stark Rd - this area is a disaster. Hold the developers accontable for the crap they build. And we don't need clustered homes between Yellowjacket baseball field and Pleasant Acres. Enough is enough!

 

Article Comment Starkpatch commented at 10/22/2009 5:15:00 PM:

Concerned- So True! So True! After seeing the Pleasant Acres and Academy Rd rezoning requests by B&P Developers, it appears we are in for a looooong 4 years in Starkville if the children running the city don't wake up, pay attention and properly plan for our growth! They each ran on that platform- it's now time for them to put up or shut up!

 

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