TUPELO – The city’s Planning Committee has recommended that residential building designs be regulated more strictly in Tupelo’s Historic Downtown neighborhood.
This unanimous decision came during a Monday night meeting and was made in response to a request from the neighborhood association for an overlay district.
Speaking to the Planning Committee, Tupelo City Planner Pat Falkner emphasized the neighborhood association’s initiative over the issue.
“It’s something that comes out of the residents’ request,” he said.
The Tupelo City Council must now also vote in favor of the overlay district before it can become official.
Within an overlay district, new construction and exterior renovations of homes must conform to certain design standards intended to ensure architectural consistency.
The Historic Downtown neighborhood goes more or less from Robins Street to Church Street and from Main Street to Jackson Street, along with a few blocks on North Green Street included and a few blocks on Main Street excluded.
Many of that area’s bungalows and cottages date back as early as the 1930s. Leaders of the Historic Downtown neighborhood association have indicated a desire to ensure that the architectural fabric is not compromised by the construction of stylistically dissimilar homes.
A study produced by Mississippi State University in the late 1990s detailing Tupelo’s historic architecture will provide the exterior design standards for the proposed overlay district if the City Council approves it.
By Falkner’s recommendation, the Planning Committee recommended that the overlay district regulations apply only to residential structures, with commercial structures exempted.
During a public hearing on the issue at Monday night’s Planning Committee meeting, no residents of the neighborhood voiced outright objections to the plan.
Several residents, however, did voice concerns, indicating that they knew nothing of the proposal until a recent mass mailing conducted by the city.
The neighborhood association begun discussing the issue last summer. Most of the meetings where the issue was raised averaged an attendance of about 25 to 45 people.
There are approximately 120 owner-occupied properties in the Historic Downtown neighborhood, and about 293 properties total, according to Falkner.
Historic Downtown did not conduct a sealed-ballot election on the question of an overlay district as some other neighborhoods have done.
Neighborhood associations are voluntary, city-recognized organizations intended to foster citizen involvement at the lowest, grassroots level. They differ from homeowners associations, which require dues and are typically found in upscale, gated communities.