Starkville adopts access management policy


City Engineer Edward Kemp discusses Starkville’s new access management policy at the Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night. (Photo by Faith Lifer, SDN)

By: 
Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

The Starkville Board of Aldermen adopted an access management policy for the city at the board meeting Tuesday night.

Amid citizen concerns, the policy was accepted with the condition that all currently pending Starkville projects not fall under the policy’s standards.

Starkville has used the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s policy as a guide over the past few years and MDOT’s policy was also used as a guide for the new policy. Before adopting the policy, the board discussed how stringent the policy’s standards would be.

“Understand, I’m not going into this with an incredibly rigid approach,” City Engineer Edward Kemp said. “I would say, in a perfect scenario, yes, you would check all of these boxes, but we also have to have enough flexibility to understand and look at it site-by-site.”

The policy has the following standards:

• Curb Cut Distance to Intersection — 125 feet
• Driveway Spacing Width — 200 feet
• Curb Cut Distance to Lot Line — 12.5 feet
• Curb Cut Offset Distance to Opposite of Street Access — 125 feet
• One-Way Access Width —16-foot maximum
• Two-Way Access Width — 30-foot maximum
• Driveway Radius —25-foot maximum

The standards are applicable to all projects that are required to have site plan review or approval by the Developmental Review Committee. Single-family residential projects on existing lots, agricultural property and roadways owned and maintained by MDOT qualify as exceptions to the standards. Any appeals of staff decisions may be appealed to Board of Adjustments and Appeals.

Before the board began discussion over the policy Tuesday night, a local business owner came to the board with concerns over the new policy during the citizen comments period of the meeting.

William Parker, owner of PowerStroke Equipment on Lynn Lane, was specifically concerned with the requirement that non-residential, one-way driveways be limited to a width of 16 feet. PowerStroke currently has a one-way entrance and a one-way exit and both are 20-feet wide.

“The biggest thing is we deal with oversized vehicles, oversized trailers on a regular basis so we’re not typical to what a lot of people see around here so that’s why we need to be in a place like the Industrial Park,” Parker said. “We’re not built to be on Highway 12. There would be wrecks all over the place.”

Parker said his engineer told him he needs to have a minimum of 20-feet for his one-way driveways.

“I need a one-direction in and a one-direction out in order to control flow,” Parker continued. “We’re very busy. People won’t stay there long. It’s pick up and drop off— in and out, in and out. So for us, we need to control that entrance.”

When questioned about the 16-foot standard, Kemp said MDOT recommends a 16-foot parameter for one-way driveways.

“Because if you get much wider than that then it does encourage two-way traffic,” Kemp said.

Yet, Kemp again acknowledged that each project would be evaluated on a site-by-site basis.

“I would take the approach, if the board was okay with this, understanding that your staff is going to do the best job that they can do on trying to encourage development and doing it in a way that follows the code,” Kemp said. “So I would say that the only reason for a project to go to an appeal is if there is a viable, reasonable way to do a project and provide access and the applicant chooses not to do it for whatever reason. I think they take that to the Board of Adjustments and Appeals and make their case.”

“But if it’s something that’s already constrained by their function, by the existing properties around them, by their lot size,” Kemp continued. “I would love the flexibility for staff to be able to provide the flexibility and accommodation to do that with Developmental Review Committee approval.”

Ward 3 Alderman David Little made the motion to accept the new policy with the condition that all currently pending Starkville projects not fall under the policy’s standards. The motion passed unanimously.

Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker said he thinks the policy is a step in the right direction for future development. Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk also alluded that the policy would be a “bridge” until Starkville adopted its new codes.

After the meeting, Parker said the approval takes away any previous concerns he had coming into the meeting.

“As of right now, yes, I think it will,” Parker said.

During the work session Friday, Kemp emphasized that access management is a balance between providing the traveling public enough access, while also maintaining safety for those traveling.

“There is a balance there between providing adequate, proper access to businesses and also safety,” Kemp said. “As one goes up, the other goes down— it goes both ways— and so it’s trying to find that middle ground, that middle point where the balance is right.”

IN OTHER NEWS

In other news, the board unanimously approved beginning city fuel acquisition and management through a state contract with Fleetcor in 2019, evaluating the services and monitoring the management with quarterly reports.

The board also unanimously approved the advertisement for an engineering inspector who would oversee construction to assist with projects in the Starkville Utilities Department and the Starkville Engineering Department.

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