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Rezoning already drawing concerns

May 7, 2012

By STEVEN NALLEY
sdnedu@bellsouth.net

The Starkville Planning and Zoning Commission will meet 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss rezoning property south of Lynn Lane for a multi-family residential development and an exception from form-based code regulations for First United Methodist Church.

Clyde Pritchard is requesting a zoning change from C-2 (general business) to R-5 (multi-family, high density residential) for 12.45 acres of property west of the Maison de Ville Subdivision. In her report, Assistant City Planner Pamela Daniel says Pritchard intends to develop this property into Georgian Square, a gated, upscale community with three-, four- and eight-dwelling unit structures open to Mississippi State University students.

John W. Hartlein, president of the Maison de Ville Association, has joined six residents and their families in writing letters to the commission objecting to this rezoning. In two letters, Hartlein said one R-5 rezoning in the area will enable future developers to cite a change in the neighborhood as an argument for their own R-5 rezonings, leading to multiple similar developments.

“Maison de Ville would not exist today had the adjoining property to the west been zoned R-5,” Hartlein said. “The rezoning to R-5 now will detrimentally affect future sales of homes in Maison de Ville. The proposed change ... to a high density student apartment project is not only incompatible to our residences of Maison de Ville, but in direct conflict with the city’s own comprehensive plan of 2005.”

With his letter, Hartlein included a copy of the comprehensive plan. The fourth significant finding it lists is that Starkville has “too many multi-family units, many poorly designed, cheaply constructed and in inappropriate places.” To address this issue, the plan calls for city officials to “Protect single-family residential areas from commercial and multi-family encroachment in zoning ordinance” and “adopt appropriate buffers between single-family and multi-family zones.”

A letter from Don and Peggy Whitmire, who live in Scottsdale, Ariz. but have entered into a contract for construction of a Maison De Ville home, said the rezoning would fall afoul of these and other guidelines the 2005 plan sets forth. The Whitmires also said they had bad experiences at a townhouse they owned in Highlands Plantation when student rental property developed nearby, and they fear the same effects from Pritchard’s proposal.

“We have a long list of ‘stories’ to tell,” the Whitmires said, “including students parking in our driveway (and yard) without our permission for parties on the other side of the street ... our making 2 a.m. calls to the sheriff’s office to come shut down ‘overly enthusiastic’ student parties, theft of our mailbox, impassable streets as a result of uncontrolled parking situations and others.”

The commission will also consider a request from First United Methodist Church to use a building at the intersection of Washington Street and Lampkin Street as a facility for its contemporary worship service, “Pathways.” The building FUMC plans to purchase and renovate has housed several businesses over the years, from Spot Cash to Miss Chaos.

The city would need to make an exception to the form-based codes it passed in January to grant FUMC’s request. The form-based codes set architectural guidelines more focused than the city’s default set in certain areas to encourage certain types of land use, allowing developers to build better projects with fewer administrative steps.

In a letter to the zoning commission, F. Lee Carson, FUMC board of trustees member, said he was surprised to discover the form-based codes’ T-5 zoning precludes the property from being used as a worship space. He said nearly all of FUMC’s current property is located in a T-5 zone, and FUMC’s plans for the building include several renovations.

“We will improve the look of the exterior with stucco, paint, awnings, windows, and doors,” Carson said. “We will renovate the interior to allow for a worship space in the south part of the building. This space will hold approximately 200-250 people.”

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