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City officials talk zoning, image in planning session

March 29, 2011

By PAUL SIMS
sdnnews@bellsouth.net

A question weighing heavily on the mind of at least one city official is whether Starkville will possess the tools it needs to put in motion what arises out of this week’s charrette process.
City officials who attended a charrette session specifically focused on gauging their views on various subjects Tuesday spent a great deal of time on zoning and related matters, including the city’s comprehensive plan.
Tripp Muldrow, an urban planner with Arnett Muldrow and Associates in Greenville, S.C. led the bulk of the discussion.
Muldrow said the 2005 comprehensive plan didn’t seem to list priorities.
Mayor Parker Wiseman said he doesn’t believe the plan includes redevelopment districts and a related authority.
“By and large it provides a good plan, but what has not happened since then is the true policy aspect of making that plan actionable from the city side and the policy side,” said Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas.
“What’s happened since then is Highway 182 has continued to deteriorate,” and continuing development pressure exists on Russell Street, he said.
“There’s another something that promises to happen on Russell every few months,” Dumas said.
More people travel Russell Street than they do University Drive, Dumas said, adding the entire corridor is zoned C-2, or general business.
“This board and this city frankly does not have the political will to down-zone that or rezone that,” to a planned unit development or a mixed use environment, with an overlay possibly being discussed, Dumas said. He also added Highway 182 and the bypass is also zoned C-2.
Dumas expressed his concern about whether the city has what it needs to put the charrette plan into action.
“If what I think will happen on Thursday happens, we don’t have the framework in place from a policy, a code or a zoning standpoint to make those things happen,” he said.
City officials are looking at form-based codes as a next tool to begin the implementation phase, Dumas said
“I hope this week really starts the communication on the community scale of ‘You know what? I’m tired of being this town that really has no identity other than Mississippi State University.’ And I’ll be the first to admit that has to be our strongest identity. But we have no real landmarks,” Dumas said.
Muldrow asked the tenor of the mood in the community.
“It depends on who you talk to,” Lynn Spruill, the city’s chief administrative officer, said. “What I hear more often than not is that we’ve grown a lot over the last 10 years despite ourselves,” Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker said, with Spruill adding “or the city’s running all the construction out of town.”
Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said “I hear completely different.”
Ward 2 Alderwoman and Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Sistrunk said: “We’re on the verge of great things.” Dumas affirmed what Sistrunk said.
Parker added he hears the complaint side of more restrictions and regulations.
City officials also discussed issues related to marketing and branding the community.
“It is important for the city to have an independent identity but at the same time, it’s also important to realize that the university is this community’s most marvelous asset. In the era of the knowledge-based economy, we sit right here in the back yard to a Top 100 research university. That’s incredible,” Wiseman said.
“You get to play like a much bigger place than you are because of the amenities the university has to offer. You have (an) amenity-rich community that any city of comparable size without a university would not be able to sustain,” Muldrow said.
“At the same time, I want us to be the type of community where if somebody wants to they can come to Starkville and maybe not even have a reason to go to the university campus but still have an incredible experience in Starkville, and I think that’s just as important to the university as it is to Starkville,” Wiseman said.

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