March 20, 2009
Tim Pratt -
STARKVILLE -- While Starkville residents will see massive repairs to city streets and drainage systems this year, the city''s newly formed sidewalk committee is working hard to improve things for pedestrians.
The committee met Thursday to work on an ordinance that would require builders to construct sidewalks alongside all new public or private roads within the city.
The group only serves in an advisory capacity and eventually will present the ordinance to the city''s Board of Aldermen for consideration, but on Thursday agreed on how to word a section involving construction of single-family homes. According to the section agreed upon by the committee, the ordinance would require builders to construct sidewalks in front of all new single-family detached homes before the city issues certificates of occupancy.
The section does not apply to commercial or multi-family residential developments, though the committee soon will begin working on requirements for those types of projects, as well.
Additionally, the group plans to tackle the need for improvements to the city''s existing sidewalks. For now, however, their attention is focused on the future of sidewalks in new residential developments.
As part of the ordinance, a sidewalk would have to be built in front of each house before it is occupied. Once a development is 85 percent complete, the builder would have to lay sidewalks in the rest of the neighborhood.
The committee acknowledged the ordinance could lead to a piecemeal of sidewalks in developments where houses aren''t built all at once. Two people could purchase lots and build houses and sidewalks, but the owner of the lot in between could wait 10 or 20 years before developing the property. The sidewalks in front of the existing houses then would end in an empty grass lot because the sidewalks wouldn''t connect, City Engineer Edward Kemp warned.
Still, the committee felt it was a better option than the other plan they were considering.
The other plan would require builders of all single-family residential developments to construct sidewalks when they lay the roads and infrastructure, which sometimes happens well before the houses are built.
But Kemp and City Planner Ben Griffith warned how sidewalks inevitably would get destroyed when it came time to build houses on the lots. The weight of the construction trucks would be too much for the concrete to handle, Kemp said.
"Those sidewalks would get pretty torn up," Kemp said.
Sidewalk committee Chairman Joe Fratesi is working on revisions to the ordinance before the group''s next meeting on March 26. The committee ultimately hopes to present a draft of the ordinance to aldermen at the board''s April 7 meeting in City Hall.