By STEVEN NALLEY
The Starkville Planning and Zoning Commission will consider recommending approval of a preliminary plat for Michael Kraker’s PUD (planned unit development) located on a recent extension of Garrard Road at its meeting 5:30 Tuesday at City Hall.
The city opened the Garrard Road extension in August 2011, and as such, Kraker’s PUD, “The Cottages at Creekside,” is one of its first developments. City Planner Ben Griffith said in his report that Kraker is proposing a compact “pocket neighborhood” of 23 detached, single-family residences with amenities including gravel footpaths and wooden bridges along and across a Sand Creek tributary.
“The applicant is proposing other open and common spaces to be used for passive recreation and storm water management purposes,” Griffith said. “All common areas and open space will be maintained by a homeowners’ association.”
The PUD was the subject of extensive discussion and debate in fall 2011, resolved when the Starkville Board of Aldermen approved a rezoning for the PUD and the Starkville Board of Adjustments and Appeals approved two variances from existing PUD regulations.
When Kraker first requested a zone change from R-1 (residential) to PUD in August, the zoning commission raised questions about the rationale for the zone change because the Garrard Road extension had not yet opened. City Attorney Chris Latimer said state and city codes only permit the city’s zoning map to be amended if the map has an error or if changing conditions in an existing zone make an amendment desirable for orderly growth.
“Theoretically, yes, but the law won’t allow you to base ‘change’ on future change,” Latimer said. “It would have to be past change.”
Kraker withdrew his zone change request to bring it back before the commission in September, and with the extension open, the commission recommended the aldermen approve the rezoning, which they did in October. However, Kraker still needed approval from the board of adjustments and appeals for three variances from existing PUD regulations:
— Roadways 24-feet wide instead of the usual minimum requirement of 31 feet.
— Rights-of-way 42-feet wide instead of the usual minimum requirement of 42 feet.
— A “net” density of 6.04 dwelling units per acre instead of the usual maximum of five dwelling units per acre.
The board approved both of the first two variances, and concerning the last variance, the board extensively discussed how density for the PUD should be measured. The board ultimately chose “gross density,” which included roadway acreage in the calculations, kept Kraker under the density limit and eliminated the need for a variance request. At the time, board chairman Milo Burnham said the board’s decision will likely influence how the city measures density for PUDs in the future.
Kraker said the approval of the preliminary plat at the zoning commission’s recommendation will enable Kraker Properties to begin construction of “The Cottages at Creekside.” Based on Griffith’s information, Kraker said he does not anticipate any more of the protraction he faced in the rezoning and variance process.
“We’re just glad to be at that point where we can start,” Kraker said. “I think it’s going to offer very attractive, affordable housing that is only several minutes away from the (Mississippi State University) campus.”