By STEVEN NALLEY
The Starkville Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the board of aldermen approve both the form-based codes drafted by Placemakers, LLC and replace the city’s current chart of permitted land uses.
Form-based codes set more focused architectural guidelines than regular zoning laws in certain districts to encourage certain types of land use, allowing developers to build better projects with fewer administrative steps. The new land-use chart is intended to streamline the city’s chart of conditional and permitted land uses.
Public hearings were scheduled for both the land-use chart and form-based codes, but only the form-based codes received public comment. The sole speaker was Mark Guyton, a partner with Guyton Properties.
“I honestly don’t know if I’m for or against it,” Guyton said. “It just appears, from my trying to understand what form-based codes are, that we’re getting a level of complexity to our zoning that isn’t beneficial. There just seems to be such a hodgepodge of rules. I don’t know the solution for it. Getting more and more complex isn’t necessarily good.”
City Planner Ben Griffith said the city received Placemakers’ latest revision of the form-based codes Friday, and from his reading, Placemakers incorporated revisions the commission previously discussed. Commission chair Jerry Emison then came forward with more revisions.
First, Emison said, he was concerned about the form-based codes listing and defining form-based districts which would not apply to Starkville. Commissioner Jason Walker said those districts might be added in the future, necessitating those definitions for reference. Emison objected.
“This is not an educational document,” Emison said. “This is an operational document.”
Ultimately, Emison and the commission agreed to ask Placemakers to amend the sections defining unused districts to specify their use exclusively for future reference.
Second, Emison said he still did not see language requiring city-approved permits for development in form-based districts. City Attorney Chris Latimer then pointed a specific section out, and Emison withdrew his request.
Commissioners Jeremy Murdock and Jason Walker then proposed further revisions, and the commission did not object. For example, one of Murdock’s amendments allows for channel letters, which are individually, internally lit marquee letters businesses use to place their logos and other messages on their buildings. Walmart, Walgreens and Cold Stone Creamery are examples of businesses in Starkville using channel letters.
The board then unanimously recommended the board of aldermen approve the form-based codes on the condition of Placemakers’ implementation of the extra amendments.
Griffith said he had made the commission’s recommended changes to the land use from its previous discussions. Murdock said he had just a few more changes to add, and Griffith added them without objection from the other commissioners. Murdock’s changes included:
- Enabling conditional use for two-family dwellings in an R-5 residential zone.
- Enabling conditional use for personal services in an R-5 residential zone.
- Changing indoor recreation in an M-1 manufacturing district from permitted to conditional use.
- Changing farm support in an A-1 agricultural zone from permitted to conditional use.
Murdock then made a motion to recommend approval of the new chart with those corrections, which passed unanimously.
The board also voted unanimously to approve:
- A final plat from Frank Jones Development, LLC for Country Club Estates, Phase Two, located east of South Montgomery Street.
- A final condominium plat from Boardtown Development for High Cotton at 509 Russell St.
- A preliminary plat from the Crigler family for Brammelwood Apartments, Phase One on the western side of the Highway 25 bypass.