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Consultant to present urban renewal plan

June 11, 2012

The Starkville Planning and Zoning Commission will hear a presentation on a proposed urban renewal plan for districts falling under the city’s form-based codes at its 5:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting at City Hall.
Tripp Muldrow, a consultant with Arnett Muldrow and Associates, will present an urban renewal plan draft which covers the T4, T5 and T6 districts set forth in the form-based codes the city adopted in November 2011. These districts include 472 parcels and their adjacent public rights-of-way, the plan says, including areas of Highway 182, Russell Street, downtown Starkville, University Drive and the Cotton District.

The Mississippi Code of 1972 defines a “blighted area” as meeting any one of eight characteristics, and the draft says three of those characteristics exist in the districts. The first characteristic, it says, is a substantial number of deteriorating structures as determined in a windshield survey.

“Forty-six percent of the parcels contained buildings in ‘standard’ condition, meaning they had no visible building code violations from the street,” the draft says. “Thirty-one percent of the parcels contained buildings with notable minor repairs necessary to make them code compliant. Nine percent of the parcels contained buildings that likely will require major repairs to make them code compliant based on the windshield survey.”

The second characteristic, the draft says, is faulty lot layout, particularly pertaining to lot size. The districts have lots as small as 0.012 acres, it says, and their average lot acreage is .42 acres.
“Many of these lots were platted in the early development of Starkville and are small compared with contemporary platting,” the draft says. “Several of the largest parcels within the district are so large that the accessibility to the parcel is inhibited by its size. Over half of the acreage of the study area (59 percent) is occupied by substandard buildings or is a vacant parcel. In fact, vacant parcels account for 25 percent of the land area inside the designated district.”

The last characteristic is deterioration of sites or their improvements, the draft says. Parking problems stem from development in the area that predates the automobile, only 12 percent of the districts’ sidewalks are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and aging infrastructure poses other significant problems, it says.

“Existing streets need repaving, including a much-needed resurfacing of Highway 182,” the draft says. “Underground infrastructure consists of aging clay and cast-iron pipes that are inadequate for modern uses.”

Goals listed in the plan include maximizing development opportunities, improving infrastructure, encouraging development of vacant land, complying with the form-based codes and rehabilitating, renovating or removing substandard structures. Techniques the plan lists to meet these objectives include acquisition and disposition of property, public-private partnerships, construction of infrastructure improvements, encouraging private enterprises to take part in redevelopment and rehabilitation or demolition of substandard buildings.

Commissioners will also hold an election for its chairman and vice chairman. Its current chairman is Jerry Emison, who requested and received an excused absence from Tuesday’s meeting at the board’s previous meeting. In an email to City Planner Ben Griffith included with the meeting’s e-packet, Emison said he was sorry he could not attend.

“I hope that the commission will consider me for re-election as the chair,” Emison said. “I believe I am eligible, and I am willing to continue to serve in this capacity.”

The commission will also consider a conditional use request from Ernest Minor to allow multi-family residential use in a commercial zone on Carver Drive. A report from Assistant City Planner Pamela Daniel says Minor wants to rebuild Summer Chase Apartments, destroyed by fire on Jan. 27.

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