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MSU buying property in development-strained area near campus

JACKSON — Mississippi State University is purchasing property on the edges of its campus, as the school and surrounding community struggle with rapid growth in a formerly rural area south of campus. President Mark Keenum said at a College Board meeting last month that the university wants to buy land “on our doorstep” as it comes available to accommodate future growth.

Keenum said a recent agreement among MSU, Starkville and Oktibbeha County to allow MSU police to make arrests up to 500 feet off campus could also help manage traffic and speeding along Blackjack and Oktoc roads, where rapid development has led residents of houses to complain they can’t get out of their driveways. That policing agreement became possible after the Legislature authorized MSU police to work off campus earlier this year.

MSU’s foundation bought two houses earlier, and the university is now buying them from the foundation, paying $331,250 for a 2,400-square-foot house on a half-acre of land and $452,500 for a 2,800-square-foot house on 0.7 acres. The university is also paying $400,000 to buy a 1,400 square-foot house from a private individual. The College Board approved all three transactions last month.

“Since the property is adjacent to the south entrance of the MSU campus if another party were to purchase this land, the university could be faced with undesirable development adjacent to campus and near a highly visible border of the university campus,” the university wrote in documents presented to the board.

MSU already owns one house on the south side of Blackjack.

“We felt like us having an ability to impact future development would be wise, Keenum said. “The pieces of property don’t come on the market all the time.”

One large student apartment complex already exists near the roundabout at the junction of Blackjack and Oktoc, developers plan to open a second, 800-unit complex by next fall, and two more are in planning stages, the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors has been told. The unincorporated area lies due south of the heart of MSU campus.

Roads and sewer capacity are being strained by the development, and supervisors are trying to figure out how to finance improvements in what was once a semi-rural area. Keenum agreed that the area is straining to accommodate apartment complexes aimed at students.

“I do think the infrastructure to support that housing is lacking tremendously,” he said.

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