City sidewalk ordinance talk continues

What is generally called Starkville’s “industrial park” is more of a manufacturing center, some officials say.
The area on Lynn Lane where the Golden Triangle Regional Planning and and Development District is planning to develop a senior enrichment center has become the subject of debate after Rudy Johnson, executive director, insisted that a sidewalk is not a necessary component of his development.
“I don’t know why Starkville wants to make it difficult to create jobs and wealth,” he said Tuesday during an open forum on lifting sidewalk rules for some developments. “What you’re talking about is practical.”
Jim McKell, who was instrumental in finding a place for senior activities currently inside the GTPDD, agreed.
“I urge you to exclude industrial areas from the sidewalk ordinance,” Jim McKell said, explaining that heavy equipment could destroy sidewalks at the industrial park while the site of the senior enrichment center has open drainage that would make sidewalk installation difficult.
“They’re not necessary,” he said.
But one of Starkville’s aldermen says that the “industrial area” is not only a non-industrial zone, but its land use is that of manufacturing center.
Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said that similar businesses and offices also sit along Highway 12, where sidewalks are also necessary.
Per a request from the Board of Aldermen, transportation chair Jim Gafford, who helped draft the city’s sidewalk ordinance, presented one that would allow variances, but not for Johnson’s development.
“This document is very objective,” he said. “If we don’t create a uniform enforcement, we are creating and adding to sprawl by making development cheaper outside the city core.”
This, he continued, would lead to the current problem of no connectivity in Starkville.
Variances the new draft allows would be considered for a developer who would suffer “undue hardship” from higher than average costs.
Local residents supported Gafford’s proposal and entreated the board to hold fast to the message in its ordinance that was first drafted two years ago.
“I encourage the city to continue to resist a request to allow a variance based on one request,” said Dr. Robert McMillen.
Alvin Turner, who suffered a hit from a car five years ago, favored an ordinance without variances at all.
“Fair is fair, and right is right.”
Other residents argued that people who can’t afford cars need a way to get to work employment centers such as the industrial park.
Still, Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, who brought the request to the table, said he would not support sidewalk installation in an “industrial area,” unless the city received the $20 million TIGER II grant for infrastructure, if the Lynn Lane bike path is constructed or if there were sidewalks within one-quarter mile of the area.
The board will have a second public hearing on the ordinance at a date to be announced.
After the hearing Jim Gafford echoed the idea that Johnson’s site was not located in an industrial area.
“You can’t say we don’t want sidewalks in an industrial park and have nonindustrial uses there,” he said.
In other news regarding infrastructure, the board took the first step toward fixing the traffic problem on South Montgomery Street.
Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker said the street is too congested mainly between the hours from 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to p.m.

Editor’s note: Additional matters addressed at Tuesday’s Starkville Board of Aldermen meeting will be published in Thursday’s edition of the newspaper.