By CARL SMITH
The next phase of developing a countywide comprehensive plan could begin in at least three months after a software issue involving recent geographic information system (GIS) mapping is solved, Rudy Johnson, Golden Triangle Planning and Development District executive director, said Monday.
Johnson was on hand at Monday’s county board of supervisors meeting to answer questions involving the 2009 contract issued by the county for developing the comprehensive plan and a new 911 addressing system.
GTPDD GIS workers conducted a countywide survey which inventoried every Oktibbeha County road, structure and landmark in preparation for the new plans. Toby Sanford, GTPDD’s manager of GIS and remote sensing, said outdated county 911 software will not completely load the GIS files produced from the inventory until an update is secured.
County Administrator Don Posey said a meeting is scheduled next week to discuss the software upgrade. He estimates the upgrade could cost the county about $70,000.
Once the proper software is in place, Johnson said planners from Central Mississippi Planning and Development District will travel to Oktibbeha County and begin the initial comprehensive plan. Any delays with the upgrade could extend the timetable he said.
“I said three months the other night, but until we get the software in place and I make sure our data can talk to (911) software, we’re going to focus on that,” Johnson said Wednesday. “I want the 911 project to be done and functioning right. The comprehensive plan is important, but saving lives is important to me.”
Johnson said he will update the board of supervisors on the progress of the first project as it is completed. Once CMPDD planners arrive, Johnson said an initial plan could be developed in three months.
“Depending how detailed the plan is — and I’m talking whether (supervisors) want to have building permits, zoning and other codes — it would then take longer,” he said.
Numerous public hearings will be held on the comprehensive plan as it is developed, Johnson and county officials said.
Discussion on the matter began Monday when Roy Montgomery, an Oktibbeha County Land Use Coalition spokesperson and University Estates Home Owners’ Coalition president, asked the board of supervisors about the plan’s status. In 2007, the county agreed there was a need for a comprehensive county plan and contracted with GTPDD in 2009. The contract, which will cost the county $275,000 once all work is completed, stated work on the comprehensive plan would be completed by September of that year. Supervisors previously said the contract’s completion date was erroneously listed and the board was aware of the project’s lengthy timetable.
Montgomery said University Estates residents were confronted previously confronted with a nearby low-incoming housing development which potentially would have lowered home owners’ property values.
“We opposed this as a citizens group because no countywide legal framework existed to base our position. Others in the county have had to fight these incursions due to a lack of a comprehensive plan,” Montgomery said Monday. “Those developments proceeded. We were fortunate that the sale had fallen through. That left a taste in our mouth that there should be something done to make opposition by individual pocket groups of citizens unnecessary.
“A comprehensive plan is something that not should be feared,” he added Monday. “These are put in place to protect value of property already in place and can be modified as the need arises. We’re not against growth, but we need growth to be positive,” Montgomery said. “Uncontrolled, unregulated development can be harmful if (developers) do not take in account property values.”
When audience members asked Johnson if a plan could be produced quickly and amended as needed, he said changes could increase the project’s price.
“When you’re contracted to do a comprehensive plan and you want to keep changing it, that’s going to cost more money. What was $50,000 before you know it is now $150,000,” Johnson said. “We’re getting it right so when (CMPDD planners) do the plan, they’ll have everything they need — every road, every structure, the whole 9 yards. When you go home tonight, just look at all the houses, all the infrastructure — everything you see — and do that countywide. I’ll take the heat, but I’m not going to give the county something we have to go back and change in six months.”
Since 2009, Johnson said he has not received payment from the county for any uncompleted projects.
“They haven’t paid a dime in three years. I’ve been doing it on my own to make sure it’s done correctly,” he said Monday. “
Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Marvell Howard said he looks forward to updates on the software, the comprehensive plan and the overall project in the next three months.
“We appreciate (the public) holding us accountable. Everybody holds everyone accountable. In three months, you should expect to see something on the table,” Howard said Monday.