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Zoning law revisions promise change

December 20, 2012

 

Jim King, vice president for student affairs, said he believes the new zoning law revision will positively impact Ruston and the Tech community. – Photo by Sumeet Shrestha

KELSY KERSHAW
Staff Reporter

 

More than 30 years ago, Ruston had an abandoned bowling alley, a concrete plant and a crime-ridden mobile home site on what is now the future home of Tech’s enterprise campus.

 

Jim King, vice president for academic affairs, said so much has changed in the city and at the university since then, but Ruston really began to see significant changes in the 90s.

 

“There was a growth in the 90s,” he said. “Different laws were changed, eating establishments started going up along the interstate, and the cinema was built, then Walmart and Lowe’s.”

 

He said these major changes were all kind of related and were the beginning of the zoning revisions that took place last October.

 

“The city of Ruston and the staff through the planning and zoning commission began to revisit the zoning ordinances that had not been updated since 1949 and into the ‘50s,” he said. “Now work is being seen in historic downtown.”

 

Power lines and utilities are being wired and built underground to create a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere, King said.

 

Scott Terry, president of the Ruston/Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, said one of the most important things to understand about the changes is the overlay district.

 

He said Ruston zones are divided into different districts and the district that is on the outskirts of Tech’s campus. Tech is a public university owned by the state, so the points where that property meets the city’s property is called the overlay district.

 

“The Tech overlay embodies the university itself,” he said. “Up until we revised the zoning laws, downtown was falling under the overlay district.”

 

Terry said the whole idea behind the downtown development is to create a nice atmosphere that is welcoming to pedestrians so people will enjoy walking down the street, window-shopping and different forms of entertainment.

 

“For Tech students, we’re trying to develop the area as entertainment focused,” he said. “More restaurants, which of course have a bar with them, and things that students might enjoy going to.”

 

Mary Catherine Dungan, a sophomore biology and chemistry major, said that adding more revenues for entertainment would be a great way to attract more prospective students.

 

“I like the fact that they will make a more pedestrian-welcoming atmosphere,” she said. “It is important for students to be able to branch out.”

 

As Tech grows with the research campus, it will get closer to the downtown area and the city just wants students to be able to walk and utilize what it has to offer, Terry said.

 

“We also want to give the Ruston community the opportunity to use Tech facilities,” he said.

 

Dungan said she believes the changes will have a bigger impact on the city of Ruston.

 

“People will feel more comfortable visiting the college whether it is just to get lunch or read a book or two,” she said. “Opening up our campus is a great idea; however, I personally would not want a huge group of outsiders sticking around, so controls would be needed.”

 

Tech administration and the city of Ruston have collaborated to make these changes happen and master planning is key, King said.

 

“Zoning is just a small part of the master plan called Ruston 21,” he said. “Ruston 21 was designed to create an atmosphere that will be good for business and promote positive economic growth.”

 

He said their goal is to have Ruston become a college town and not just a town with a college.

 

“We want the city to grow in ways that will enhance the quality of life and the safety, at the same time, still keeping that small town feel,” King said.

 

There is a lot more behind the zoning law revisions than just the rules themselves, King said.

 

“A college town helps business, so obviously it’s a good economic engine,” he said. “The proper business helps the students, and it contributes to the quality of life for all of us.”

 

King also said zoning does not just happen, it is carefully planned and its development is essential.

 

“The chances of it properly developing are slim because it’s all left to chance,” he said.

 

King said the success and changes took a vision, which will create a greater environment to go to school in and that is important to the students.

 

“Tech and Ruston will continue to grow,” he said. “There’s a synergy and all of a sudden one plus one doesn’t equal two; one plus one equals something greater.”

 

Email comments to kjk016@latech.edu.

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