Managing Editor, StarkvilleNow
So let me get this right.
An out-of-town-development group/knight-in-shining-armor wants to build a hotel/condo as part of a major, upscale retail, residential and convention center development on the underdeveloped property along Highway 12 between Spring and Russell streets. A local group wants to turn part of that same property into an upscale retail and hotel/condo center.
Both want to do essentially the same thing. The out-of-town group has been trying to get their act together for a couple of years, and meanwhile the property languishes. The local group has their ducks in a row but is running into opposition.
When the local guys apply for the zoning change they think they need to make it all happen, the out-of-town guy raises a stink. “This proposed development will detract from the surrounding property values,” said Jimmy Gouras, planning consultant for CottonMill planners Nicholas Properties of Ridgeland and PDK Capital Investors of Atlanta, Ga, aka The Knight.
The citizen-led Planning and Zoning commission ruled 7-0 in favor of the local guy, Tabor Construction. The Board of Alderman sided 4-2 with the out-of-town knight.
This raises so many questions.
Why did the aldermen ignore P&Z’s unanimous recommendation, not once but twice?
Why did they reject a locally proven developer in Larry Tabor — who has financing in place — for a project that has languished for several years, leaving behind nothing but the rubble of a movie theater and pretty signs?
Vice Mayor and Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk cited her reason for voting no as the fact that the residential zoning will not generate as much money as it would if it stayed commercial.
So 50 (or more) high-end condos, which most likely wouldn’t qualify for homestead exemption, coupled with a restaurant or other retail outlet is going to get you les tax dollars than another clothing store or sub shop that could go in there tomorrow under existing zoning?
Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas rejected the idea because he said it was closer to “strip” development instead of nodal development.
So if Tabor does it, it’s a strip mall, but CottonMills doing it makes it nodal?
This really doesn’t make much sense.
Will this same group of city leaders oppose CottonMills if they purchase the project, refurb it into a hotel or condos and stick a restaurant there?
Probably not, and therein lies the problem.
Favoring a group who has made plans but no progress for years over one who is ready to go smells of preferential treatment.
I don’t blame the CottonMills group for opposing Tabor’s project. It’s a valuable piece of land in question. I’m sure they want to buy it to integrate into their master plan. That makes good business sense.
But to protest someone else’s project now, knowing that they are going to attempt something similar if/when their projects ever gets moving is pretty lame.
It’s not like they haven’t had their chance to buy it in the past. They have been given first shot with millions of tax dollars (another way of saying “tax credits”) and everyone is cheering them on.
But all we have is a torn-down building, weeds and promises. And a Board of Aldermen ruling in their favor.
I hope the CottonMills development makes it. It could be one of — if not the — most important retails developments in Starkville in the past 30 years.
But even more, I wish the out-of-town guys could play nice with the local developer and build something marvelous.
Too bad the Aldermen couldn’t have helped move that project along.
(Full disclosure time: Tabor project architect is Chris Cosper, a good friend who designed the Studio on North Jackson project for me and currently rents an office there. Jeremiah Dumas is Alderman for my Ward- and a very responsive one at that.)