June 7, 2018 11:07:55 AM
Starkville will continue work on a new parking ordinance after receiving an initial round of positive feedback from residents.
At its Tuesday meeting, the board of aldermen held the first of two public hearings on the ordinance, which aims to strengthen controls to keep people from parking in yards and introduce a new metric to increase the amount of residential parking available.
Daniel Havelin, with the city's Community Development Department, said during a presentation at Tuesday's meeting that the ordinance should help decrease the number of cars parked on streets in residential areas, which hinders traffic flow.
"The intent of this proposed ordinance is to take the pressure off on-street parking and not to eliminate street parking because it serves a legitimate purpose," Havelin said. "The issue of residents parked in the front yard and storing their recreational vehicles has been a consistent complaint to code enforcement and city staff. These complaints have come in from nearly every ward."
The new ordinance changes residential parking requirements to be set by the number of dwelling units, rather than square feet, as the current ordinance sets them. Havelin noted the parking requirement changes will only be for new construction or extensive renovations, so as not to force every residence that doesn't fit the new standards to change parking.
Under the current ordinance, residential units with up to 449 square feet are required to have 1.5 parking spaces; 450-749 square feet must have two parking spaces; 750-999 square feet must have 2.5 parking spaces; and 1,000-plus square feet must have three parking spaces.
The proposed ordinance changes so that lots with one or two dwelling units must calculate parking at one parking space per bedroom. Lots with three or more dwelling units must calculate parking at 1.25 spaces per bedroom.
The new ordinance also includes restrictions against parking on front yards and separate restrictions for residential vehicles, a definition which includes boats, all-terrain vehicles, temporary storage containers, travel trailers and motorhomes.
Several residents spoke in favor of the ordinance on Tuesday, and no one voiced opposition.
Erle Cheney told the board an increase in rental properties has led to more vehicles parked on the street in his neighborhood, which has caused problems.
"I live on a dead end," he said. "One night, I counted 14 vehicles at one house across from me. They were stretched all the way across the street, including the middle of the street, which totally blocked the street.
"This type of parking interferes with city vehicles, delivery vehicles and postal vehicles," Cheney continued. "... If there had been a fire or emergency, I hate to think what would've happened."
Cheney expressed support for the proposed ordinance and said Starkville should be willing to look at similar measures to improve safety.
"Whatever it takes to increase the safety of neighborhoods due to speeding, parking or running stop signs, we should be willing to do it," he said.
Emil Lovely, another resident, said he wants to see the city do something to keep as many people from parking on the street as possible.
"There are folks that are buying properties for rental purposes and they don't care where they park," he said. "There may be as many as four cars in a house and they're parking everywhere. That needs to be corrected."
Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller, who initiated the push for the new ordinance, said Wednesday he was pleased with the discussion the hearing generated and hopes to continue hearing feedback on the ordinance.
"I thought the dialogue was very positive and it was a really good conversation we had in addressing our parking issue," Miller said. "What we heard from the public, and other wards as well, is that it is an issue in Starkville. We're continuing to work through the ordinance as we go into the second public hearing."
He said he was also thankful for feedback from other elected officials, such as Ward 2 Sandra Sistrunk asking how the ordinance would affect a constituent who has a hard parking surface for his RV in front of his home and lives on a lot that may be too narrow to move the RV to the back. Likewise, Mayor Lynn Spruill suggested considering exceptions for holidays, as currently exist in the ordinance for Mississippi State University home game weekends.
Miller added the current proposed ordinance is just a draft, and it may change as the city takes feedback from residents. The board will hold a second public hearing at the board's June 19 meeting. After that, aldermen can vote on the ordinance, but he said that doesn't mean they'll do so immediately.
"Even with the second public hearing, if we get more feedback, if we feel the board is willing to vote and thinks it's good as is, then you could see us vote on it," he said. "But we certainly don't have to."
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