July 12, 2018 10:36:31 AM
Starkville Housing Authority will host a forum Thursday evening on a project to potentially relocate Pecan Acres in a land swap for a new commercial development on Highway 12.
SHA Director Loren "Bo" Bell said the forum, which is open to the public, will begin at 5:30 p.m. He said its length will be flexible, depending on turnout.
Christopher Dobbs, a Tuscaloosa, Alabama-based developer, is looking to build a replica of the 70,000 square-foot Pecan Acres low-income housing development on land on the north side of Highway 182, west of Reed Road. That new facility would then be swapped with Pecan Acres' current location on Highway 12 across from KFC, which is being eyed for commercial development.
Local attorney Johnny Moore, who is representing Dobbs, presented a redevelopment proposal to the Starkville Board of Aldermen in April. At past forums, Moore has said a hotel company is interested in the site, along with some restaurants and an entertainment venue such as a bowling alley.
Bell said the SHA board, executives, Dobbs and Moore are expected to be at the forum.
"It should be a full house," he said.
For Thursday's forum, Bell said it will likely be structured similarly to public comment periods at Starkville's board of aldermen meetings, where citizens have an allotted time to speak.
"We'll allow citizens time to speak," he said. "At the end, if we get through and we still have time, we may have a chance to allow people to come back and speak more or ask more questions."
Bell said SHA is working through the approval project with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He said property evaluations still remain to be completed, and the process will be a slow one.
While the process continues, SHA is continuing to seek feedback from its tenants and the community. He said he expects some tenants will be at the forum, but with a forum and several tenant meetings already held, this evening's event is more focused on gathering feedback from the community at large.
Moore said the forum should help gauge public perception of the project.
"Typically, this is for the public," Moore said. "It's more about public comments than to view design plans and ask what kind of businesses are going in. It's more about people's opinions and what they think about the idea, in general, more than anything else."
The project has generated split opinions in some segments of the community. Some people favor the program, while others have expressed concern about moving Pecan Acres residents away from its location near Vowell's Marketplace to an area that's farther away from grocery stores and drug stores.
Bell said he understands those concerns and admitted that the project isn't perfect. However, he said he hoped continued dialogue with the public can help clear up differences, or at least offer SHA more angles to consider as it moves along with the process.
"Just because they don't agree with it today doesn't mean we don't pick up on something or learn something we need to do," he said. "Each time we've held a meeting, we've walked away going, 'They've made some good points.'
"This is my hometown," he added. "I've been here 50 years. I want the next Pecan Acres to last another 50 to 60 years like this one has."
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