Aldermen deny county sidewalk variance for storm shelter

Staff Writer

At its meeting Tuesday night, the Starkville Board of Aldermen denied a sidewalk variance for a proposed safe room to be built with federal grant funds by Oktibbeha County.

The board voted 6-0 in favor of denying the variance, with Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver absent.

The variance would have allowed the county to not build sidewalks for the proposed safe room at its proposed location within the Starkville city limits at the southeast corner of Lynn Lane and Industrial Park Road.

The vote came after a discussion between the board, Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill and Oktibbeha County Administrator Emily Garrard.

“The undue hardship test is that the applicant has to establish that sidewalk construction cost per linear foot is more than two times the average rate as documented by the transportation committee,” said Board Attorney Chris Latimer. “In the packet materials, I don’t see that documentation.”

Vice Mayor Roy A’. Perkins said many had come in the past asking for similar variances.

“There are plenty of people who have come in the past, and the board has held their feet to the fire, including many notable and high-profile projects, where the board required those persons, including businesspeople who bring projects to comply with this ordinance, ” Perkins said.

He said with no exemption, there was no way to prove the county met the requirements for a variance, and one should not be granted unless it could be proven.

“If they don’t have this information, I can’t support this,” said Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller. “Furthermore, when you talk about what this building is going to be. It’s going to be a safe house, for people to be able to get there in the area, really there’s not many residents that live there, but we have two major public parks that are right there. Having access, I think is of paramount importance.”

Miller also recommended a surety bond as a possible alternative source for the county to fund the sidewalk construction.

County Manager Emily Garrard said the county provided documentation at the

Board of Adjustments and Appeals meeting and to the aldermen, but some aldermen and city staff said they had not seen it.

“It’s not that the county is anti-sidewalk,” Garrard said. “We are as of right now funding a sidewalk grant for Locksley Way and Blackjack with the city of Starkville and MSU in an area where sidewalks are widely used and are needed, and if we don’t run out of funding in providing other things that the state won’t fund, we don’t have a problem with the sidewalks, but the county’s cost to fund these sidewalks, fund the landscaping and everything that the grant does not pay for is $252,000.”