Housing Authority fields concerns at Pecan Acres forum

Starkville Housing Authority Modernization Coordinator Johnny Taylor answers questions at the Pecan Acres public forum Thursday night. (Photo by Faith Lifer, SDN)
Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

Starkville Housing Authority commissioners held a public forum concerning the highly-contentious Pecan Acres property swap Thursday night at the Greensboro Center.

The potential property is located on Highway 182 across from Longs Lake by Talley Ho Road.

Many Starkville citizens attended the meeting, voicing their concerns. Over 60 people attended the forum, the majority of whom are not Pecan Acres residents but concerned citizens. Chairman of the Starkville Housing Authority Board of Commissioners Loren Bell did not finish his opening statement before hands were raised and questions were asked.

Starkville resident concerns include:

• Value of current property versus value of potential property

•  Isolation and lack of accessibility on potential property

• Potential of property being a USDA food desert

• Transparency of process

• Community involvement in the process

• Uncertainty of OKTI developers’ next steps

In response to inquiries of transportation, Starkville Housing Authority Modernization Coordinator Johnny Taylor said a survey of Pecan Acres residents by the Housing Authority yielded 15 out of 204 residents who did not have personal transportation. Adequate transportation for those 15 residents is still unclear.

Based on previous meetings held by Starkville Housing Authority for Pecan Acres residents, out of the 50 residents who came to the meetings, five Pecan Acres residents were against the property move.

“Our mission is our tenants,” Bell said. “There is not a perfect solution, and I think a lot of people made some good points tonight.”

Bell then said the project is still far off, but community involvement and listening to concerns is important.

During the meeting, Taylor provided a list of approvals necessary for construction to begin:

• The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) will need to approve the site.

• The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will need to approve plans based on HUD standards.

• City officials will need to approve construction in Starkville property.

If approved, the construction phase will begin with separate inspections provided by OKTI developers along with third-party inspectors provided by the Starkville Housing Authority. OKTI developers will be responsible for any construction problems not approved by either set of inspectors.

At this point, the details of the “conceptual project” are unclear, but community concern is certain. Bell asks the community to give the Housing Authority more time for details before it judges the potential project.

Kay Brocato, president of AAUW Mississippi, publicly expressed her gratitude to the commissioners for holding a public meeting with audience inquiry, also commending the proactive audience or voicing its questions and concerns.