Builder Clayton Richardson is fed up with Starkville”s stormwater and sidewalk ordinances, saying the regulations are too strict and are scaring away developers.
“We”ve now come to the point that we”re not building in Starkville because of the things that were added: stormwater and (sidewalks),” Richardson said Tuesday to the city”s Board of Aldermen.
Richardson made the comment during a public hearing on proposed amendments to the city”s sidewalk ordinance, a majority of which are intended to clarify the sidewalk committee and previous Board of Aldermen”s intentions, requiring all new commercial and residential developments to be built with sidewalks.
Richardson wants to build a commercial development at the corner of Stark Road and Columbus Avenue, and the ordinance would require him to construct sidewalks on his property along both streets. He estimates it will cost an extra $13,500 to build the walkways.
The builder”s main gripe, however, is that no adjacent properties along Stark Road or Columbus Avenue have sidewalks, so the walkways would end at his property lines.
“I”m not opposed to sidewalks, but I am opposed to singling out a project like this,” Richardson told the Board of Aldermen. “Sidewalks are good for the community. Let”s pay for them through taxes. Let”s all of us pay for them.”
He also takes issue with the city”s controversial stormwater ordinance, which has drawn scorn from builders over the past year for the way it is interpreted by the Board of Aldermen.
One section of the ordinance says it is applicable to any residential development of four acres or more and any non-residential development of three acres or more. It”s also applicable, as written, to any development having less than four acres and more than two which has 50 percent or more impervious surface.
The problem, however, comes when developers read the next section of the ordinance, which says, “No development should be undertaken that increases the rate of surface runoff to downstream property owners or drainage systems.”
Since the previous Board of Aldermen interpreted the second section of the ordinance to mean no development should be undertaken which increases the rate of surface water runoff downstream, regardless of the acreage, several developers have complained the standards are too strict and put their projects on hold. Developers also have argued the ordinance should be applicable only to properties delineated in the first section, which only applies to residential developments of four acres or more and non-residential developments of three acres or more.
The issue finally came to a head Oct. 6 when Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker made a motion to interpret the ordinance based on the first section, which only would make it applicable to properties larger than the three and four-acre requirements, and with the 50 percent impervious surface standards.
Parker, former co-owner of B&P Developers, was joined in support of the minimum acreage requirements by Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn Sr, who each voted in favor of the three and four-acre interpretation. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk and Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey voted against Parker”s motion because it would have been contrary to the way the city has interpreted the ordinance over the past year, which applies the stormwater runoff regulations to properties of any acreage.
Because the vote was tied 3-3 and Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas abstained, the decision ultimately was left up to Mayor Parker Wiseman, who voted against Parker”s motion and left developers to contend with the stricter second interpretation.
The city has formed an ad hoc committee of aldermen, planners and developers to study possible amendments to the stormwater ordinance.
A second public hearing on the sidewalk ordinance is scheduled for the Board of Aldermen”s next meeting, set for Nov. 3 at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.