The Starkville Planning and Zoning Commission deferred its decision Tuesday concerning the proposed First Baptist Church master plan to its February meeting to ensure that the corresponding public hearing is in compliance with city standards.
The master plan as originally presented includes a roundabout on Lafayette Street adjacent to the church’s current outreach center and a new children’s building on the opposite side of the street. Starkville Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill, serving as interim city planner, said a public hearing on the matter needs to be rescheduled, because the original public hearing notice did not reach property owners within the required radius of the proposed development.
“It should have been noticed at 300 feet based on the conditional use for a T5 (zone). It was noticed at 160 feet, I believe,” Spruill said.
“My initial recommendation is, we’re going to need to cure some defects. In order to comport with public hearing requirements, I believe we’re going to have to have another posting and notice for a public hearing (in February).”
Commission chair Jerry Emison said while the commission made no decision on the master plan, it did have a productive discussion with FBC representatives on the nature of the proposal. He said the commissioners’ primary concerns included the multiple types of new transect zoning districts that intersect with the master plan. The commissioners also sought alternatives to the roundabout, he said.
“As a result of this, the applicant indicated that they might be revising their proposal, their request, and doing it in time to get properly noticed for February,” Emison said.
Roger Pryor, an architect with Pryor and Morrow working with First Baptist Church, said he, too, thought the discussion was productive. He said potential changes to the master plan deal primarily with the way FBC will address the varying transect zones.
“It’s complicated when you’ve got different parcels in different (zones). That’s the primary area, trying to figure out how to clean all that up,” Pryor said. “There are a variety of options available, and, of course, what we’re trying to do is work with the planning and zoning commission to come up with the best solution for the church and for the community at large.”
Pryor said he sent additional documents to the city Friday in response to comments his company received after investigating the master plan project. He said it is important for FBC and Pryor and Morrow to think in terms of the community’s needs, because the master plan primarily serves the community.
“It serves working couples that need a place for their children to go during the week, and it serves a vibrant Sunday school program at FBC. In these times, a $7 million construction project will offer much-needed relief to construction workers, so it’s a win-win project all around,” Pryor said. “There are many instances where older, well-established churches are leaving downtown locations and moving to the outskirts of their cities. First Baptist Church is investing in downtown; they’re showing a real commitment to the downtown area.”