June 16, 2010 12:14:00 PM
Despite protests by a half dozen neighbors, the Starkville Board of Aldermen Tuesday approved a zoning change on South Washington Street for a proposed 16-unit condominium development dubbed "The Georgetown."
The mayor and Board of Aldermen voted 4-3 in favor of the zoning change at 214 S. Washington St., from a C-2 general business district to a Planned Unit Development, or PUD. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver recused himself from the vote because he works with one of the neighbors who spoke out against the rezoning, which forced Mayor Parker Wiseman to vote and break the remaining board members'' 3-3 tie.
The decision to approve the rezoning request went against the recommendation of the city''s planning and zoning commission, which advised aldermen to reject the request because not enough change had taken place in the surrounding neighborhood to warrant it, City Planner Ben Griffith said. Among the criteria needed for the city to approve a rezoning request is whether or not the surrounding neighborhood has seen a significant change in character, or if the zoning change would satisfy a public need.
In moving for approval of the rezoning, Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said the surrounding area has seen a change in character over the years and there is a "significant" public need for condominiums in the city. Additionally, the Roberts Cove development, which adjoins the proposed condominium site, is a PUD.
Because it is up to aldermen to decide what constitutes a neighborhood, Dumas said the board could consider any changes in the surrounding area. The board in the past has considered areas within a mile of a property to be in the same neighborhood, Dumas said.
"I don''t think anybody is in disagreement that C-2 is the wrong zoning for this property, for this area," Dumas said. "But when I look at Roberts Cove, when I look at the other contextual change in the neighborhood -- even on South Montgomery with multi-family units, with other things that are there -- I see the change in the neighborhood. Yeah, there are older homes there, but when you define a neighborhood and look at the change subjectively, in my own personal opinion, I see that."
Dumas also liked the idea of condominiums with easy access to downtown for walkers and cyclists.
Seven people spoke out against the rezoning request, including six residents of South Washington Street, during a public hearing prior to the vote Tuesday. Among the group were Tom Ball, his wife, Nancy Cook Ball, and daughter Betsy.
Tom Ball said the condominiums, proposed on one acre, would be "the densest apartment complex the city ever had," and wouldn''t fit in well with the mostly single-family homes located on South Washington Street. Nancy Cook Ball said she is afraid the condominiums will degenerate into apartments and the developer, John Hartlein, will have no obligations regarding upkeep or tenants.
Attorney Jeff Hosford lives on South Washington and was concerned over the lack of parking proposed at the site. The sides of South Washington already fill with vehicles during church services downtown, Hosford said.
Hartlein proposes 28 parking spaces at The Georgetown, even though the city requires 36, given the square footage of the condominiums. The number of required parking spaces is based on the square footage of the units being proposed, but the city granted Hartlein a waiver, which will allow him to include just the 28 spots.
Hartlein said the condos will be marketed toward Mississippi State University alumni, many of whom live out of town and wouldn''t occupy their parking spaces regularly. Still, Hosford was concerned the lack of parking at The Georgetown would force residents and visitors to park on an already congested South Washington Street.
"What happens when all of them are there?" Hosford said. "They park on the street. Then it affects me."
Hosford also said Starkville is saturated with condominiums and homes for sale, and there is no public need for more.
In other business, aldermen approved a preliminary plat for a 44-lot RV and motor coach park at Spring Street and Lincoln Green with a 6-1 vote. Only Carver voted against the plat, saying after the meeting he was opposed because it would be up to members of the park''s yet-to-be-named homeowner''s association to be in charge of enforcing park rules and regulations, and no full-time attendants would be on site.
starkvegan commented at 6/16/2010 5:13:00 PM:
Obviously, condos are better than some commercial development in this area. The problem really is that our brain-dead city government some 20+ years ago zoned vast chunks of residential central Starkville as commercial. Misguided City Hall thinks that if you have more commercially zoned land that you will get more sales tax revenue. They failed to realize two decades ago, and still today, that their zoning is systematically unraveling the historic fabric and stable core of the town. These inappropriately zoned lots promote shoddy and misguided development while driving away anyone who desires stable neighborhoods (translation: increasing property valuations => increasing property tax revenue to the city ).
In Starkville, anything that remotely resembles multi-family housing ultimately becomes student housing. Remember that Starkville is almost 70% renter-occupied, compared with about 25-30% for other Mississippi towns. Yet developer after developer comes before the city to get permitted to build some "real nice" or "luxurious" multi-family development in the middle of established single-family dwelling neighborhoods for these rich alumni who supposedly spend their weekends here. Time and again, these developments are finished and largely students move in. Older "student" developments are left vacated and gravitate toward subsidized housing status.
Also, it makes you wonder what compelling reason the Board saw to ignore an UNANIMOUS recommendation by the Planning & Zoning Commission. Because Starkville needs more condos? Don't we have at least five planned "condo" developments with big signs sitting out in weedy overgrown sites awaiting market interest, financing, or economic upturn? No, Starkville doesn't need more condos. We need a Board of Aldermen who are not in bed with our developers.
Finally, Ben Carver abstains because he WORKS with someone who was opposed to the plan? I guess the other aldermen and the Mayor should also abstain if they even know someone opposed to or in support of the plan. Then, the vote might have been something like 1-0.
interested in starkville commented at 6/16/2010 8:18:00 PM:
starkvegan - I agree with you on all points. I really wish you would consider sending this as a "Letter to the Editor", Starkville Daily News. Residents of Starkville need a wake-up call.....it could be your neighborhood next.
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