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City officials to consider study of ‘overlay’ area

April 3, 2011

By PAUL SIMS
sdnnews@bellsouth.net

A proposal set to go before the Starkville Board of Aldermen Tuesday could lead to the creation of code districts which may streamline the administrative process for developers.
The board will consider a recommendation to authorize the negotiation of costs with a company called Placemakers, who – if approved – would address what’s called form-based codes for two specific areas of the community, said Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas.
The areas are the Main Street district, which runs approximately from around First United Methodist Church to Old West Point Road, then what’s known as the university connector corridor which essentially is University Drive from Old West Point Road to the campus and all of Russell Street.
“Those are areas we see the most development pressure” they are also areas the city’s Comprehensive Planning Committee wants to see improved, said Dumas.
“Form-based codes are a proven technique to really enhance communities,” he said.
“Given our current zoning nothing that Main Street proposed (Thursday) in the way of development projects could occur without lengthy variance processes with our current zoning in the specific districts,” Dumas said, referring to the proposed recommendations made by a professional team which reviewed the city’s core this past week.
These codes will act as an “overlay on top of our current zoning and basically gives you by right the intended variances to help with density, parking and landscape. This is the way to do it in one swoop,” he said.
Form-based code does not discount usage, said Michelle Jones, a member of the city’s Comprehensive Planning Committee and a on the CPC for the city and a Knight Fellow in community building at the University of Miami School of Architecture. However, form is more important under these codes, she said.
“The underlying zoning is not changed. It’s not downzoning or up-zoning. it’s just giving developers and builders more opportunity to be creative and to build quality,” Jones said. “Essentially what this is doing is allowing the developer to get a plan approved by right as opposed to going through” the rezoning and variance process.
The city “would exchange some rights to developers and builders in exchange for higher quality,” Jones said.
“There shouldn’t be the waiting time which can be a cost factor,” Jones said. Also, “You can look at property within this overlay and know what you can do there,” and not go to the expense of getting a number of drawings completed, she said.

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