Oktibbeha County supervisors are hashing through a 65-page proposal that, if enacted, will establish development processes and minimum standards for subdivisions outside of incorporated cities.
Supervisors acknowledged receiving the Slaughter and Associates-produced document Monday but did not discuss or take action on the matter.
Public hearings are expected before the board attempts to approve new regulations, but supervisors have not yet scheduled those sessions. The plan itself could change as officials debate the county’s regulatory options.
Supervisors previously tasked Oxford-based planner Mike Slaughter in June to write new regulations that will hold developers responsible for any negative impact their projects inflict on area infrastructure.
The proposed legislation, as obtained by The Dispatch late Monday, would establish requirements for the legal subdivision of land, prevent overcrowding and facilitate the development of proper infrastructure — road and sidewalk construction, stormwater abatement and other installations — in outlying county areas.
It specifically targets “all land divisions of three or more lots or parcels … for the purpose of transfer of ownership or building development” and other subdivisions that could require the dedication or vacation of roads or other infrastructure.
Developers who violate the ordinance could face misdemeanor charges and a maximum $500 penalty upon conviction, the proposal states.
Additionally, the draft calls for the creation of a planning committee to oversee the development process. Slaughter said supervisors could nix that option in favor of handling the process themselves.
“My plan is to sit down, walk through (the proposal) and find out exactly what direction the board wants to go. It’s easy for the board to mandate legislation, but this could create additional responsibilities for someone down the line,” said District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer after Monday’s meeting. “With the way our county is growing, it’s a step in the right direction. If the board wants to take this up and move forward, we’ll cross that bridge then.”
Before initial construction efforts can begin, the proposal states developers must have sketches and final plat plans approved by the planning commission or the board of supervisors. Officials must also approve preliminary plat and construction plans for larger developments, and the county engineer will monitor infrastructure improvements in certain cases.
Starkville developers must follow a similar process for projects within city limits. Plans are submitted to the city’s design review committee, and developers can also appear before numerous boards — planning and zoning, adjustments and appeals, stormwater hearing and tree advisory groups, for example — for variances to city code.
Final approval rests with the board of aldermen.
“These rules will assure that land is subdivided properly and the proper infrastructure is put into place, as opposed to the costs (of future infrastructure issues) being passed on to the taxpayers. There’s no process right now. Anyone can just go out in the county, purchase land and start developing it,” Slaughter said. “There’s no doubt this will save a lot of headaches (associated with unchecked growth). It’s sound planning sense to have some type of minimum control and guidance.”
Supervisors hired Slaughter, who also developed the county’s comprehensive plan, after receiving months of complaints about new student housing developments along Blackjack Road and their combined effect on the heavily traveled thoroughfare.
Blackjack Road links the outlying county area and Mississippi State University to Starkville.
Development is a double-edged sword for the county. Supervisors need major projects to add revenue — additional funds for road repairs, specifically — to the county’s coffers, but officials have said many roads were not constructed to handle the heavy traffic load created by high-density housing projects.
The board approved a $4.78 million-maximum tax increment financing (TIF) package to fund physical improvements from the Blackjack roundabout to Bardwell Road, but the plan remains stalled as the county awaits the TIF district’s housing projects to hit the tax rolls.
Supervisors also approved a May study that could lead to a cut-thru road connecting Blackjack and Oktoc roads behind the gas station at the roundabout, thereby alleviating congestion.
As with the TIF-funded improvements, the cut-thru road plan is on hold until the county secures additional monies.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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