July 15, 2009
Residents of the Academy Place and Stonegate subdivisions were fuming Tuesday after the Starkville Planning and Zoning Commission voted to approve the rezone of a parcel of land in their neighborhood.
The land at issue is a 12.7-acre plot off Academy Road, between Montgomery Street and Louisville Road.
It has existed in the C-2 zoning category, meaning it is a general business district, and developers Les Lindley and Frank Brewer had requested the board rezone it as an R-3A plot, to reserve it for single-family dwellings. Lindley and Brewer are interested in building 63 housing units on the land and selling each for $100,000 to $200,000, since 60 percent of houses in the price range sell within six months, said an attorney representing them, Johnny Moore, during a public hearing on the rezoning during the meeting.
"This is the last parcel of Academy Road that is still zoned commercial," Moore said, while making an argument the neighborhood is more residential than commercial and is worthy of rezoning.
Of the 40 or so people who attended the meeting, excluding the commissioners, several were residents of subdivisions around the land. Some of them spoke out in opposition of the rezoning, citing property values, drainage, traffic, density and sunset viewing as potential issues.
The residents ended up on the losing side of a three-to-one vote to approve the rezoning. Ward 2 Commissioner James Hicks, Ward 4 Commissioner Jason Walker and Ward 7 Commissioner John Moore voted in favor of the resolution to approve the rezoning, while Ward 6 Commissioner Ira Loveless voted against it.
"I''m mad as hell," said Mildred Stickley, who lives in Stonegate, as she left City Hall after the meeting had been adjourned. "I feel very strongly that it was a miscarriage of justice. I couldn''t believe that these commissioners would sit there and let it happen."
Stickley said she doubted the commissioners live in the subdivisions surrounding the parcel of land and thought they didn''t care about the residents.
Jean Higginbotham, who lives beside the plot in question, said before leaving City Hall she thought some commissioners had made up their minds about the rezoning vote before coming to the meeting.
"If they honestly listened to that presentation, there was no reason to change it from C-2 to R3-A," she said, referring to comments she and her husband, William Monroe, had made about a nearby stream''s tendency to flood and cause drainage problems, among others associated with the plot.
"(I''d) never see a sunset again as long as I''m there," Monroe told the commission at the conclusion of his elaborate address.
Higginbotham had told the commission she and her husband had bought their house and land two years ago "confident that our property values would be protected," but rezoning could cause unforeseen threats.
As Higginbotham walked down the City Hall steps, she was overheard saying, "Biggest bunch of hogwash I''ve seen in a while."
Both Lindley and Brewer declined to comment after the meeting was adjourned.
After the commission voted to approve the rezoning, Municipal Court Judge Rodney Faver told the residents they have the right to appeal the ruling to the city''s Board of Aldermen, who meet Tuesday. There will not be a public hearing at the meeting, but the residents can contact Mayor Parker Wiseman about the matter beforehand, or add a citizen comment, Faver said.