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Zoning panel snubs proposed student housing

May 10, 2011

By PAUL SIMS
sdnedu@bellsouth.net

Facing questions about density and zoning alongside neighbor opposition, the Starkville Planning and Zoning Commission recommended on Tuesday that city officials deny a preliminary site plan for a proposed student housing project.
The commission voted unanimously to recommend to the Board of Aldermen that they deny the plan put forward by Apartment Equity Solutions I for 8.27 acres off College View Drive.
Representatives of State View at the Cotton District told the panel they could make adjustments to the proposal to meet the city’s density requirements, which the project – with 208 proposed units and a 25.15 unit per acre density factor – would exceed.
“Nobody’s established what the density” will be, said former Ward 1 Alderman Sumner Davis, who now lives adjacent to the proposed development. Neighboring properties to the west are zoned R-2, or single-family residential. Even if Aiken Village – a Mississippi State University residential property – was factored for density-per-acre, it would be 8.37, Davis said, given the property’s approximate 40 acres and 268 units.
Project representative Clay Landers said the project was no more dense than the nearby Cotton District.
Several commissioners and citizens questioned whether the planned unit development zoning designation applied to the project. The developers of the “Stateside” mixed-use development – previously proposed for the property – obtained the planning unit development (PUD) zoning in 2006.
“This isn’t a PUD,” Jerry Emison, the commission’s chair, said. However, Emison also told the panel that there will be “very strong demand for student housing for the foreseeable future” and Starkville will need to add residential capacity.
The project developers have 10 days in which to file an appeal to the Board of Aldermen.
In a separate matter, the panel voted unanimously to recommend approval to allow Tabor Properties to develop multi-family condominiums in a C-2 – or general business – zone. Tabor plans to convert 100 former hotel rooms at the former University Inn – off Highway 12 – into 52 condominiums for fee-simple sale.
On May 11, 2010, the commission tabled action to allow all members to be present to consider it, then held a special called meeting May 20, 2010 with a complete board and unanimously agreed to recommend approval.
On June 1, the Board of Aldermen decided to send the request back to the commission over concerns about the application and questions about adjacent property owners had been notified.
The commission convened June 29 and again voted unanimously to recommend approval. An adjacent property owner appealed the decision on July 9 and on July 20, aldermen turned down the request. The project previously faced opposition from representatives of the proposed Cotton Mill Marketplace, said Larry Tabor. Cotton Mill is a proposed mixed-use development adjacent to the hotel. However, Tabor told the commission he’d spoken to a Cotton Mill representative who indicated they would not oppose the plan for the hotel.
Project representatives retooled the plan to develop an extended-stay hotel and obtained a building permit to that end, then recently resubmitted the condominium plan to city officials.
In an unrelated matter, the commission voted to recommend approval of a request from Emma Belk that 2.86 acres of land off Rockhill Road be rezoned from an R-1, or single-family residential, zone to R-6, which is largely made up of mobile homes.
The property is an area the city annexed in 1998, and there was no zoning provision at the time for manufactured homes on individual lots, City Planner Ben Griffith said after the meeting. Zoning did exist for mobile home parks. The R-6 designation has since been created to allow for manufactured homes on single lots, he said.

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