The Starkville Board of Aldermen this fall could vote on amendments to the city”s sidewalk ordinance and allow variances and an appeal process, but revisions also are in the works regarding the circumstances when sidewalks are required.
Aldermen this summer instructed the city”s Transportation Committee to draw up possible amendments to the sidewalk ordinance to allow variances and appeals, and the committee returned to the board Tuesday with a revised threshold for requiring the installation of sidewalks, as well.
Under the existing ordinance, property owners would be required to install a sidewalk if they are making improvements to the property which cost an amount equal to or greater than 50 percent of its taxable assessed value. The Transportation Committee, however, felt the 50-percent standard can be “cumbersome” and “confusing” to applicants, and difficult for the city to enforce, committee member Jim Gafford told the Board of Aldermen.
The new standard, introduced Tuesday, would set a $100,000 threshold. Major improvements and redevelopment costing more than $100,000 would require the installation of sidewalks.
The proposed cost threshold has been chosen in an effort to avoid situations where sidewalk construction would come to be a significant fraction of the cost of the project, Gafford said. The Transportation Committee is proposing an exception for projects where sidewalk construction would be more than 10 percent of the total project cost.
The standards do not apply to residential or agricultural improvement projects, according to the proposed amendments. Additionally, sidewalk construction would be required from lot line to lot line under the proposed amendments.
Sidewalks would still be required along all new streets and in front of new houses and businesses.
Much of the talk Tuesday centered around the industrial area where the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District is located. Director of the GTPDD, Rudy Johnson, urged the board to use “common sense” and not require sidewalks in industrial areas.
“What you”re talking about is not practical,” Johnson said.
But the city”s Transportation Committee has no plans to include a variance in the ordinance for industrial areas.
Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said he could see the need for a variance if the city had a “heavy industrial zone,” but said the area around the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District is a manufacturing zone, and not a true industrial park. Variances for manufacturing zones could lead to additional variance requests from businesses along Highway 12, he argued.
“And that”s where we need (sidewalks),” Dumas said.
The Transportation Committee is composing amendments which provide for variances in instances where topography would not allow a sidewalk, or the installation of a sidewalk would provide a substantial financial hardship for the property owner. Additionally, the amendments would set up an appeal process through the city”s Board of Adjustments and Appeals.
Several residents spoke for and against the amendments, including Mike Okhuysen, who said people who work in the industrial area around the GTPDD need public transportation, not sidewalks, if they don”t have a vehicle.
“Mass transit is the answer for people who don”t have cars, not telling them to walk,” Okhuysen said.
Others warned the board that if it begins to grant variances for businesses like the GTPDD, which doesn”t want to install a sidewalk but wants to construct a new building, other businesses will ask for similar treatment.
“You”re just opening the door for other requests,” said Ward 7 resident Robert McMillian.
The Transportation Committee will continue to work on amendments to the sidewalk ordinance, Gafford said. No date for a second public hearing was set.
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