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Supervisors revisiting tabled planning deal

February 3, 2013

By CARL SMITH
news@starkvilledailynews.com

Oktibbeha County Supervisors will once again revisit a potential comprehensive planning contract with the Oxford-based firm Slaughter and Associates 9 a.m. Monday at the county courthouse.

Board President Orlando Trainer confirmed Mike Slaughter will make a presentation to the board. Supervisors, he said, could act on a contract tabled since last year.

Slaughter previously told the board in October his agency could handle developing such a plan within a year at a cost of approximately $35,000. He told Starkville Daily News in December the project could be accomplished between six to nine months.

“We’ve got the kinks worked out. Hopefully, we’ll approve this thing,” Trainer said. “He’ll be there to answer any questions that the board has, and it’s my hope that we’ll move forward.”

In 2009, the board reached an agreement with the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District to produce a comprehensive plan, but the initiative was delayed. Trainer said Jan. 12 that documents releasing the GTPDD from the agreement were signed, which in turn allows the county to enter into a new agreement.

In November, GTPDD Executive Director Rudy Johnson said he was in favor of Slaughter and Associates handling the task.

A comprehensive plan would have to satisfy four minimum elements set by state legislation. It must establish goals and objectives, and develop plans for land usage, transportation and community facilities.

Any plan Slaughter and Associates develops will include input from county residents and community leaders, and will be properly vetted by the board. County leaders have not expressed an interest in designing strict zoning-enforcement plans, Slaughter said in January.

“We have to know what is important to the residents as it impacts residential, commercial, industrial areas, community facilities and infrastructure,” Slaughter said in January. “It’s not what Slaughter and Associates thinks, it’s what citizens and community leaders think is important when looking 20 to 25 years down the line. We have to have a barometer for where this county wants to be in the long term.”

“Land-use plans have no legal enforcement behind them at all. With a comprehensive plan, a land-use plan can give you a guide best suited for land uses in particular areas. It doesn’t have the teeth to tell a land owner or developer what they can or cannot do,” he added last month.

“Certainly every county in the state does possess what’s called ‘policing power’ to enforce zoning ordinances if they so desire, but those must be based upon an existing comprehensive and land-use plan. I don’t think zoning ordinances are on the table in Oktibbeha County.”

SDN obtained an early contract draft between Slaughter and Associates and the county in December. According to that document, the county would compensate the firm for its services plus any out-of-pocket expenses. Slaughter and Associates would submit “monthly or periodic” invoices to the board requesting payment.

In other business, the board will hear a report on potential repairs to two local bridges.

Board Vice President John Montgomery said repairs to a bridge on McCann Road could cost $130,000, while similar repairs to an Old West Point Road bridge are estimated at $250,000. Supervisors could turn their discussion toward how to proceed with other bridge repairs, he said.
The board could also formally issue a letter of support for the Mississippi Student Religious Liberties Act of 2013.

The act consists of two bills — one filed in the House and one filed in the Senate — which would allow religious expression in public schools’ class assignments and provide for voluntary student expression of religious viewpoints and the freedom to organize religious groups and activities
The House bill — Miss. H.B. 712 — was authored by Republican state Reps. Sam C. Mims and Bill Pigott, while the Senate bill — S.B. 2633 — was authored by Republican state Sen. Chris McDonald and 15 other co-authors.

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