City OKs new parking ordinance

Vice Mayor and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A'. Perkins (left) and Ward 5's Patrick Miller during Tuesday night's meeting.

Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

Amid opposing views, the Starkville Board of Aldermen voted 4-3 to approve the proposed parking ordinance brought forward by Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Ward 1’s Ben Carver, Ward 6 Alderman and Vice Mayor Roy A’. Perkins and Ward 7’s Henry N. Vaughn voted against the measure.

Andrew Stevens, an assistant professor at Mississippi State University and resident of Ward 3, came forward during the citizen comment portion of the meeting to voice his concern over the new parking ordinance.

“I am here to encourage you to amend the proposed parking ordinance by striking item 3.d., which stipulates that recreational vehicles may not be used as a dwelling,” Stevens said.

According to the new ordinance, item 3.d. prohibits the use of recreational vehicles as a dwelling unless the vehicle is being used as short-term dwelling during home game weekends for Mississippi State University. This short-term dwelling period is not to extend beyond a 30-day period.

“First of all, this rule is fundamentally about housing, not parking,” argued Stevens. “It should not be hidden in an obscure part of the city code, but should be debated clearly as what it is, housing policy.”

As a housing policy, Stevens has concern about those vulnerable to the ordinance.

“This ordinance has the potential to impact those of our citizens most at risk, students and those near homelessness,” Stevens said. “Let us not make it even harder to be poor in Starkville.”

Stevens encouraged the board to consider what he viewed as potential unintended consequences of the ordinance. However, Miller and his constituents in Ward 5 have a different opinion of the new parking ordinance.

According to Miller, residents of Ward 5, particularly those of Oktibbeha Gardens and Woodland Heights, voiced concern over the parking activity of vehicles, recreational vehicles and boats at a town hall meeting Miller held in December.

“I developed this (ordinance) as a direct result of complaints from my constituents to work towards solving the issue,” Miller said.

“I think the ordinance is great,” Miller continued. “I think it was a real test for Starkville to see how we wanted to move forward with dealing with parking in yards, but too, how we addressed absent property owners.”

According to city documents, on May 1 the board approved an enforcement “grace period” of one year as requested by Starkville’s Community Development staff. During the grace period, a warning will be issued to those not in compliance with the ordinance along with information on how they can become compliant. This one-year period will serve as an educational opportunity for Starkville’s residents.

“The purpose of these things is to make the transition as easy as possible and as smoothly as possible for the residents of Starkville,” Miller said of the grace period.

Although the result was not what Stevens had hope, he was encouraged by the current board’s standing.

“I hope this doesn’t become an issue in the future,” Stevens said. “I’m happy to hear from the standing of this Board of Aldermen is that these ordinances are self-contained about parking. My concern is that a plain reading of the ordinance could easily be extended. This board’s understanding of their ordinance may not carry to future enforcement.”