By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – Your input at Thursday’s public meeting on a proposed county plan to guide future conservation and development could have a big impact on the future of Yalobusha County.
The meeting at 6 p.m. in the courtroom at the Water Valley courthouse is the second of three public meetings scheduled across the county to generate feedback before supervisors vote to adopt the plan, which will likely include basic land standards to ensure adequate lot sizes for septic systems, adequate access to public roads, especially for school buses and emergency vehicles, as well as standards for private roads and drives. The plan, called Stewardship Yalobusha, could also include enhanced land development standards to regulate manufactured home parks, recreational vehicle parks, gravel mining, salvage yards, multi-family housing developments and auto repair shops.
The plan could also include implementing county-wide building codes in portions of the county that are not inside the city limits of Oakland, Water Valley or Coffeeville.
Only one citizen, Buster Jackson, attended the first public meeting, held July 10 in Coffeeville, and supervisors are urging their constituents to attend Thursday’s meeting in Water Valley or the third meeting, scheduled Thursday, July 26, at City Hall in Oakland at 6 p.m. before a final vote on the matter.
The public meetings follow more than a year of work, both by supervisors and the company they hired, Orion Plus Design, to formulate a long-range plan to guide future growth in the county without interfering with the quality of life for people in the county. Orion partner Bob Barber (FAICP) has spearheaded much of the work in the county after his company was hired in April, 2017, receiving input from county officials and from the public in an earlier round of public hearings held last September.
Barber has recommended to supervisors multiple times to start slow with the adoption of basic land standards plus the enhanced land development standards that address specific concerns identified in the year-long discovery process, before adopting building codes or even county-wide zoning at some point in the future.
Attendees at the July 10 public hearing included Board President Cayce Washington, District 3 Supervisor Lee McMinn and District 4 Supervisor Timothy Booker; Chancery Clerk Amy McMinn, Buster and press representation from the North Mississippi Herald and the Coffeeville Courier.
“It is important that we have a vision for going forward, because this is just ours for a little while,” Board President Cayce Washington noted at the hearing. “What is our vision for Yalobusha County for the next 20 years?”
Input in the hour-long meeting in Coffeeville last week included a recommendation from Jackson, who stressed the importance of building standards in the county.
“It is going through my mind, 20 years from now most of us in this room won’t be here. If you really had minimum standards for building houses, wouldn’t that be best for everybody in the long run? To get a quality house, no matter who builds it,” Jackson recommended, also adding enforcement would also be essential.
“I am talking about minimum stuff, the quality of wiring and the number of circuits, that is what burns stuff up,” Jackson added.
“This plan addresses that and we can go forward with it. But I am always sensitive with what the county has the capacity to take on at one time because you want to be successful. My suggestion was, let’s get the minimum standards in place and then in a year or 18 months, let’s fall in with the building code, when you have an administrative structure,” Barber recommended. “They (supervisors) can adopt it from day one, but it is certainly going to be an administrative hurdle.
A Few Points Discussed In The Meeting
• All existing property in the county will be grandfathered.
“The day you adopt the standards, everything on the ground is grandfathered in. You start from that day forward. It does take time,” Barber explained.
• Potentially adding regulations for minimum rental property standards to protect renters.
“There is some property that is just not up to standards for somebody to live in. Somebody is going to get burned up one of these days,” Lee McMinn noted
• Potentially setting requirements for the age of a manufactured home placed in a newly developed manufactured home subdivision or a manufactured home park. The regulations could also require manufactured homes to be placed on a permanent foundation.
• Adopting the land standards will be the first step in working to reduce the fire rating in the county, which in turn could lower fire insurance premiums for property owners.
“You are setting a baseline to head in that direction,” Barber noted.
• Although the proposed plan does not directly address blight in the county, a portion of the public hearing centered on concerns in the county about dilapidated property.
Barber cited state law that provides enforcement options to address properties that are a nuisance to the public health, safety, or welfare of the community.
“But we can put in the standards in some sort of way to give you more teeth, more strength, to make it easier to enforce,” Barber added about addressing problematic properties in the county in the new plan.
Barber has recommended utilizing the county’s current 911 address office as contact point to alert supervisors if potential development falls under the new regulations. He also recommended that the plan be administered by the Board of Supervisors.
“You are not setting up a commission, you are not setting up another group of people, although that is an option,” Barber explained about oversight for the plan earlier in the year.
His advice also included monitoring the new standards for 12 to 18 months to make sure they are effective. After the initial period, supervisors could consider adding building codes or other regulations to the plan.
“There are going to be some sore tails right off the bat, but in the long run, just a few years down the road, this will pay many, many dividends,” Lee McMinn said about pending new regulations.
“Whatever you do, set it in concrete and enforce it across the line. It don’t matter who it is or where it is, enforce it,” Jackson recommended.