City enforces strict drainage rule

October 7, 2009 10:04:00 AM

Tim Pratt -


STARKVILLE -- Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman made the definitive decision Tuesday on what stormwater runoff standards developers will have to meet to build in the city. 


After the Starkville Board of Aldermen deadlocked 3-3 on how to interpret the city''s stormwater ordinance, with one member abstaining, Wiseman cast the deciding vote, saying city officials should interpret it as they have throughout the past year: "No development should be undertaken that increases the rate of surface runoff to downstream property owners or drainage systems." 


The stormwater runoff ordinance has become a point of contention among developers, city officials and residents since 2008, with some saying it contradicts itself. 


One section of the ordinance says it is applicable to any residential development of four acres or more and any non-residential development of three acres or more. It''s also applicable, as written, to any development having less than four acres and more than two acres which has 50 percent or more impervious surface. 


The problem, however, comes when developers read the next section of the ordinance, which says, "No development should be undertaken that increases the rate of surface runoff to downstream property owners or drainage systems." 


Since the previous Board of Aldermen interpreted the second section of the ordinance to mean no development should be undertaken which increases the rate of surface water runoff downstream, regardless of the acreage, several developers have complained the standards are too strict and put their projects on hold. Developers also have argued the ordinance should be applicable only to properties delineated in the first section, which only applies to residential developments of four acres or more and non-residential developments of three acres or more.  


The issue finally came to a head Tuesday when Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker made a motion to interpret the ordinance based on the first section, which only would make it applicable to properties larger than the three and four-acre requirements, and with the 50 percent impervious surface standards. 


Parker, former co-owner of B&P Developers, was joined in support of the minimum acreage requirements by Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn Sr., who each voted in favor of the three and four-acre interpretation. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk and Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey voted against Parker''s motion because it would have been contrary to the way the city has interpreted the ordinance over the past year, which applies the stormwater runoff regulations to properties of any acreage. 


Because the vote was tied 3-3 and Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas abstained, the decision ultimately was left up to Wiseman, who voted against Parker''s motion and left developers to contend with the stricter second interpretation.  


What Wiseman, Parker and other aldermen agreed upon, including Corey and Vaughn, is that language in the ordinance needs to be revised. The board Tuesday voted to form an ad hoc committee to study possible amendments to the stormwater ordinance and clear up the confusing language.  


"I think this will continue to be problematic until it is remedied," Wiseman said of the two ordinance interpretations. 




Special tax debate 


In other city business, Alderman Perkins made an attempt to restructure the way the city''s 2 percent food and beverage tax revenue is distributed, but his action failed 5-2. 


As it stands, the state has authorized an extra 2 percent tax on food and beverage purchases in the city. Those funds are distributed among a number of entities. 


The city''s Parks Commission receives 40 percent of the 2 percent funds; the Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority and Visitors and Convention Council each receive 15 percent; Mississippi State University receives 20 percent and the city of Starkville receives 10 percent. From Jan. 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2008, the city received about $130,000 from the 2 percent funds. In an attempt to grab a larger share of those funds, Perkins proposed a resolution which would have redistributed more of the 2 percent funds to the city. 


Under Perkins'' plan, 2 percent funds would have been taken away from OCEDA and the VCC and redistributed to the city. The VCC and OCEDA each would have received 12.5 percent of the funds, as opposed to the 15 percent each get now, and the extra 5 percent would have been added to the city''s total.  


Since the city received about $130,000 last year, the extra 5 percent would have totaled an extra $65,000 to the city budget, Perkins argued.  


"I brought this matter before the board because I thought it was a win-win for the city," Perkins said. 


But Perkins only had the support of Alderman Vaughn. According to Vaughn, the city should be doing everything in its power to increase revenue. 


Parker, however, didn''t want to see funds taken away from OCEDA and the VCC. Wiseman agreed, saying the state designates how the funds are distributed, and they''re reserved specifically for economic development and tourism, not for general operations.  


"We have two organizations we trust," Parker said of OCEDA and the VCC. "I don''t think we should be taking funds away from people that we trust to promote economic development and tourism in the city."