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Starkville aldermen delay decision on sidewalk ordinance


Tim Pratt



The Starkville Board of Aldermen Tuesday delayed a decision on possible amendments to the city''s sidewalk ordinance so additional input can be gathered from builders and other local stakeholders.  


The board was expected to vote Tuesday night on amendments to the ordinance, one of which would allow builders to obtain variances for sidewalk construction under certain conditions, but aldermen removed the consideration of the amendments from the agenda when Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said he wanted to hear more from builders and other stakeholders in the community. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver said he will spend the next few weeks trying to arrange a meeting between the city''s Transportation Committee, local builders and other community members.  


Carver said he hopes the meeting will take place within the next two or three weeks, but Transportation Committee member Jim Gafford warned the board it could be months before the meeting takes place, possible amendments can be discussed and drafted, and another version of the ordinance is presented to aldermen for consideration. Still, Gafford said the Transportation Committee is willing to meet with builders and has attempted to gather feedback from the development community in the past, but had little success.  


Carver and Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker also said they would feel more comfortable if the Transportation Committee receives more input from people in the development community. Dumas also said he wants to help clear up confusion over certain provisions set forth in the proposed ordinance amendments, one of which allows for a variance if construction of a sidewalk presents an undue financial hardship. 


Under the proposed ordinance amendment, the determination of whether undue hardship exists shall be based on the cost per linear foot to install sidewalks. The Transportation Committee would meet quarterly to review and document the average unit price for sidewalk construction for the purposes of establishing a standard metric against which to measure the proposed construction costs. These unit prices would be determined based upon quarterly posted construction bid averages provided by the Mississippi Department of Transportation and consultation with the city engineer.  


The city''s Board of Adjustments and Appeals would then determine if sidewalk construction constitutes an undue hardship only if the estimated cost of sidewalk construction, per linear foot, is more than three times the average rate, as documented by the Transportation Committee.  


Among other proposed amendments, sidewalks would not be required on development projects equating to more than $100,000 if the cost of sidewalk installation would exceed 10 percent of the total construction improvement cost.  


Dumas said he hopes the Transportation Committee and local stakeholders can compose a sidewalk ordinance which makes Starkville "a more livable, walkable and accessible community." 


"We want this ordinance to be blessed by the Transportation Committee, first and foremost," Dumas said. "They are responsible for this ordinance and I think that''s important. At the same time, I know there''s a good deal of question and confusion about what those (cost per linear foot) multipliers mean and I think the best scenario at this point is for those developers and individuals who are concerned about this to actually go to the Transportation Committee, have the discussion and hear it from the horse''s mouth so we can have an acceptance of this ordinance across the board. So, when the implementation part of this thing occurs, people understand it''s not only been vetted through the community, but through the development side of things." 


Gafford said he is frustrated because the Transportation Committee works for the city on a volunteer basis and is repeatedly sent to discuss options without much guidance from the Board of Aldermen.




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