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Aldermen deny housing development on Yellow Jacket Drive

 

Tim Pratt

 

The Starkville Board of Aldermen Tuesday denied a developer''s request to rezone 4.98 acres on Yellow Jacket Drive for a medium-density housing development. 

 

The city''s Planning and Zoning Commission in October denied B&P Developers'' request to transform the property, located southeast of the intersection of Yellow Jacket Drive and Eckford Drive in Ward 3, from an R1 single-family zone to an R3A single-family, medium-density zone. A R3A zone would allow up to eight homes per acre, but an R1 zone only allows up to four homes per acre.  

 

With a 5-1 vote, aldermen Tuesday affirmed the planning board''s decision to deny the zoning change. Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker, former co-owner of B&P Developers, recused himself from the discussion and did not vote. 

 

Ward 6 Aldermen Roy A. Perkins initially made a motion to approve the developer''s rezoning request, but the motion died due to a lack of a second. Ward 2 Alderwoman Sandra Sistrunk then made a motion, which passed with only Perkins voting in opposition, to affirm the Planning and Zoning Commission''s decision to deny the request. 

 

The board had to consider whether enough "change" had occurred in the area surrounding the property during the last seven months to warrant, justify or necessitate a rezoning, City Attorney Chris Latimer said. Sistrunk didn''t believe that was the case.  

 

"Since April 2009, I don''t think there has been a sufficient change in the neighborhood," Sistrunk said.  

 

 

 

A long history 

 

Developer Frank Brewer, who co-owned B&P Developers with Parker until Parker was elected alderman in June and left the company, asked the city in April to rezone the property from R1 to R3A so he could fit more homes on the site. The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the request, saying the surrounding area had changed in recent years, although it ultimately failed 4-3 when voted on by the Board of Aldermen. 

 

Brewer went back to the Planning and Zoning Commission in August with a request to rezone the property from R1 to R3 multi-family, which is less restrictive than the R3A district and would have allowed multi-family units. Planners told Brewer he couldn''t request the R3A district within a year of his April request, so he asked for the change from R1 to R3, even though he still planned to build single-family detached homes on the property.  

 

The Planning and Zoning Commission, however, rejected the August request and the issue didn''t go before the Board of Aldermen. 

 

Brewer and attorney John Moore were back in front of the Planning and Zoning Commission in October to request a change from R1 to R3A because the city''s legal counsel determined developers actually could request the same zoning change within a year of the previous attempt, contrary to what Brewer was told previously by city staff. The catch for Brewer came when Latimer told planners they would have to make their determination on whether or not change has occurred in the area surrounding the property based solely on the development that has taken place since April, when Brewer first requested the R1-to-R3A zoning change. Latimer advised planners only to look at changes in the April-to-present-day timeline, and not at those which have occurred over the past several years. 

 

Aldermen Tuesday used the same timeline. City Planner Ben Griffith advised the board to approve the rezoning request, saying changes have occurred in the area surrounding the property over the past seven months, including a rezoning on Academy Road from commercial to residential and a handful of new residential units built nearby on properties rezoned within the past few years. 

 

"That one change since April and all that construction in the area since then is plenty," Griffith said.  

 

 

 

Opposition 

 

Nearly two dozen residents of the nearby Pleasant Acres subdivision showed up in opposition to the rezoning, including Stan Maynard, who spoke for 13 of the 15 minutes allotted to citizens opposed to the zoning change during the third and final public hearing on the matter. Supporters of the rezoning -- only Brewer and Moore -- also were given 15 minutes. 

 

Maynard disputed Griffith''s assessment that zoning changes on Academy Road and other properties were close enough to the land on Yellow Jacket Road to warrant a zoning change. He called Griffith''s report to aldermen "a very biased report in favor of the developer." 

 

"We don''t need this (development) to back up to our R1 neighborhood," Maynard said.  

 

Maynard and fellow Pleasant Acres resident Robert Boyd, who used his side''s final two minutes to speak in opposition to the rezoning, cited increased traffic and safety concerns if the board approved the change. Maynard urged the board to deny the request to "maintain the integrity of Pleasant Acres." 

 

In other business, aldermen authorized the city attorney to petition the Public Service Commission to begin 311 non-emergency phone service in Oktibbeha County. The board also approved amendments to the city''s sidewalk ordinance, which are meant to clear up language and confusions in interpretation among city officials and developers. 

 

 

 

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