TUPELO – The future looks uncertain for used car company CarMax’s possible $5 milllion investment in Tupelo after the City Council voted to not approve the company’s proposed site.
The City Council voted 4-3 to overrule the Tupelo Planning Commission’s recommendation to approve a conditional use for the Fortune 500 business to locate on Tom Watson Drive. Council members voted after hearing from used car dealership owners who said they were told more than a decade ago that they couldn’t build used car lots in the Barnes Crossing District Overlay.
BJ Teal, director of development services for the city, said when CarMax representatives approached the city a year ago about locating a used car business at the Barnes Crossing area, the city’s development code allowed it if a variance was granted.
Currently, the Barnes Crossing District Overlay, which includes parts of North Gloster Street’s large retail businesses and restaurants, hasn’t included used car dealerships.
Rudy Dossett of Dessett Big 4 Motors located on South Gloster Street said approving the CarMax request after rejecting local business owners’ requests in previous years isn’t fair to local businesses.
“It’s not fair when you unlevel the playing field,” he said. “We’ve tried to get up there and they said no.”
Council members Willie Jennings of Ward 7, Markel Whittington of Ward 1, Mike Bryan of Ward 6 and Jim Newell of Ward 3 opposed the planning committee’s recommendation to allow CarMax to locate in the area. Council members Lynn Bryan of Ward 3, Buddy Palmer of Ward 5 and Nettie Davis of Ward 4 supported it.
With the car dealership not receiving permission to build on the site requested, it can appeal the City Council’s decision in Lee County Court. Another option, the company can wait until the city approves the proposed development code waiting for council approval, planning committee or Council Council approval to locate at the site.
But no timetable exists for the Council to approve the new development code. The council failed to approve the new development code in June by a 3-3 vote.