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P&Z commission suggests revisions to proposed codes

October 26, 2011

By STEVEN NALLEY
citybeat@bellsouth.net

At their meeting Tuesday, members of the Starkville Planning and Zoning Commission raised objections to language in the proposed Placemakers’ draft of form-based codes for the city that allows the codes’ provisions to supersede city zoning provisions.
The commission ultimately decided to let Placemakers present the current draft at a public hearing at its next regular meeting in November. Jerry Emison, chair of the commission, said a work session would follow but could spill over into a work session separate from the regular meeting.
If the public response is too large for a single public hearing, Emison said, a second public hearing could come at the regular December meeting. He said it will be important to give any interested citizens the chance to voice their concerns without strict time limits.
“If you rush it, you mess it up,” Emison said. “This is one of those things where if you want it bad, you get it bad.”
Typically, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission sets rules for how property can be used in certain areas, including commercial, industrial and residential use. Form-based codes set more focused architectural guidelines in certain areas to encourage certain types of land use, allowing developers to build better projects with fewer administrative steps.
The draft the board discussed at its meeting is available on the city’s website at http://cityofstarkville.org/detail.php?p=7&s=50 as part of the commission’s e-packet.
Emison asked City Planner Ben Griffith if the codes would take the place of zoning and subdivision requirements in the transects laid out. Griffith said the transects act as overlay districts which add architectural guidelines on top of existing zoning regulations, keeping both in place.
“There was a lot of discussion with the Placemaker folks about that,” Griffith said. “You’re still going to have the underlying zoning.”
Emison said if the transects do maintain the underlying zoning, then the codes need to say so explicitly. Currently, they do not.
Commissioner Ira Loveless then brought Section T 1.1C of the codes to the commission’s attention:
“Where the provisions of “Article VI — General Provisions” and “Article VIII — Parking” of the Starkville Municipal Code are in conflict with the requirements of this Section, the requirements of this Section shall apply.”
Emison said he, too, planned to bring Section T 1.1C up.
“That is not an overlay,” Emison said. “That is a substitution. If and when this goes to public hearing, that needs to be drawn to the public’s attention.”
Emison said his biggest issue was with Section T 1.4D, which allows a design review board to review any site or building plan application denied by the Planning Office. The code provides for the city to establish a design review board with members coming from wards affected by the codes.
“We establish here by indirection, not directly (but without an official statement), a design review board whose judgment on this shall basically govern without any effect from the planning and zoning commission. The way this is written, is the design review board, which is not, I think, legally constituted in the governing statutes of the State of Mississippi, is designed to take the place of the planning and zoning commission in these areas. I have a problem with that.”
Emison said he wanted Placemakers to draft form-based codes with no provision for a design review board at all. Commissioner Jason Walker said the city needs to have a design review board like larger cities have, but when Emison said he would be in favor of the commission taking over the functions the draft currently outlines for the design review board, Walker agreed.
“If I were looking at it, then, our definition for what we do has to be expanded to include some more things that are like design review, which we don’t do,” he said. “If we’re going to find a way to merge some of that, I’m for it.”

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