By NATHAN GREGORY
As it stands now, a proposed roundabout concept on south Lafayette Street is still before the Starkville Planning and Zoning Commission.
Citing that the commission tabled discussion of the street redesign proposed by First Baptist Church at its Nov. 12 meeting and did not make a recommendation to seek advice from the Starkville Board of Aldermen, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins said it is not yet under alderman jurisdiction.
The aldermen unanimously approved Perkins’ motion to remove discussion of the plan from the agenda Tuesday night at the advice of City Attorney Chris Latimer.
Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker said he was in favor of making sure the city was following parliamentary procedure by first letting the planning and zoning commission make a recommendation, but if the item was going to be removed from the agenda, it should have been before the meeting when representatives from FBC came to the meeting expecting to discuss the project.
“We got our board packets on Friday. To speak that we’re going to remove it from the agenda on Tuesday night at the meeting? We had three days. If it didn’t meet procedure and didn’t meet certain requirements, that’s fine. I am absolutely not against taking it off the agenda and it going down the proper path,” Parker said, “(but) it’s horrible business to put somebody on a path and shoot them down when they get here.”
He previously pointed out that the matter before the commission was the rezoning of the land in question and what the board was asked to do was give direction on was the concept of creating the roundabout.
Latimer said while he agreed the agenda item was a street engineering matter and not the same as what the commission tabled, he felt the issues were too closely related for the board to be justified in taking action without input from the commission.
“Over and over again (the project plan) mentioned the roundabout in connection with that rezoning and I thought those matters were too inextricably intertwined,” Latimer said.
Perkins said the item being on the agenda was an effort for special accommodations to be granted.
“No project is greater than any other project. Let the Planning and Zoning (Commission) do its job,” he said. “We don’t need (anybody) to come speaking to us about the merits until it gets here.”
Parker rebutted that special treatment was not being sought.
“They’re not asking for any special consideration. They’re asking for the project to be looked at and have a direction so they can proceed on that project, and it’s like we put every hurdle in the world in front of people before we allow them to do anything,” he said.
After the decision to remove the item, Planning and Zoning Commissioner Jerry Emison commended the board for doing so but said he wished the board would consult the commission before approving restructuring of the Building, Codes and Planning Department. He said the revised job description for the city planner opening did not include a requirement of American Institute of Certified Planner certification, and that was a concern of his.
“The action … will transform the city planner into a department head and by doing so will dilute the planning professional expertise that is brought to matters of development before the city,” Emison said. “At this time you need more professional planning expertise as you try to develop the city. We need to have the right kind of decisions being made and professional planning expertise is important.”
When the board addressed the matter it passed with an added condition that AICP accreditation is a requirement for consideration. Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk also asked to revise the requirements of 10 years of progressively responsible experience with at least five at a managerial level to six and three respectively.
“That opens up a pool of candidates but still gives us someone who is seasoned enough to step into a management role like this,” Sistrunk said.
The board approved the item in a 4-3 vote, with Perkins, Ward 7 Henry Vaughn and Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver opposed.