Former mayor opposes changes to sidewalk ordinance

October 17, 2013 9:53:16 AM

Carl Smith - [email protected]


Former Starkville Mayor Dan Camp delivered a blistering letter Tuesday urging aldermen to preserve the city's sidewalk ordinance unless they want the city to suffer a major setback. 


Camp, one of the notable Starkville developers who owns a significant amount of Cotton District property, said in his letter that the city's progressive developments were born from previous boards - his administration issued the first version of the city's current sidewalk ordinance - and that repealing the sidewalk ordinance would "take us another 50 years to recapture lost ground." Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker delivered the letter. 


Earlier this month, Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn, who was supported by Ward 3 Alderman David Little, motioned to task Community Developer William Snowden with reviewing and suggesting changes to the city's landscaping and sidewalk ordinances by the end of the year. Wynn and Little said Starkville's current rules place unfair, business-hindering burdens on developers. 


Snowden was placed on medical leave Tuesday. The report was delayed until February. 


Wynn's motion set no clear scope or goals for Snowden's review. Since then, local activists, including Starkville in Motion President Ron Cossman, said they would use the coming months to educate the public, including aldermen, about the key role sidewalks play in the city's socio-economic setting. 


"I recommend that you minimize any changes that you make to the landscape ordinance and leave the sidewalk ordinance alone," Camp wrote in his letter. 


"Starkville has come out of the fog that has surrounded us over the years when it was commonly stated that 'We do the least with most,'" he added. "People are not saying that anymore, and I do not want that rhetoric to begin again. If you want to be known as the board that took us back into the dark ages of anything goes, then continue this trend." 


On Wednesday, Camp said the board continues to cite "mystery developers" claims against sidewalk costs without delivering clear-cut, accurate examples of development-killing costs. Those expenses, he said, do not drive away businesses from Starkville. 


"I can't imagine anyone who was going to come here decide not to because they had to put in a sidewalk," Camp said. "I think it's really shameful that we're trying to say we want development without saying we want proper infrastructure. 


"I think (aldermen) are probably worked up from developers that don't want to adhere to the ordinance, and that's the bottom line," he added. "We don't have a lot of leadership positions filled with creativity. It seems there are still a few Democrats doing the Republican's favors from the campaign." 


The former mayor also suggested aldermen minimize any changes to the city's landscaping ordinance, saying community input was used to craft the legislation. 


In his letter, Camp jokingly threatened to secede the Cotton District from Starkville "to protect his investment" if the board took action that hurt the city.

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch