By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – At least four City Council members plan to attend a special meeting today to likely approve Joyner neighborhood’s safeguard against unscrupulous developers during tornado recovery.
The council decided to have a second meeting this week for a public hearing and likely vote to approve the neighborhood conversation overlay district. State law requires the public hearing and vote for establishing an overlay district only after advertising the change for 15 days.
Four members is the minimum quorum necessary to vote at a meeting.
“I’m in support of it but I’m going to be out of town,” Ward 7 Councilman Willie Jennings said earlier this week. “I already had plans to be out of town.”
Joyner was among Tupelo’s heaviest-hit residential areas during the April 28 twister. Joyner’s neighborhood association overwhelmingly approved the added layer of bureaucracy that requires a design review committee to approve plans for new construction and significant repairs to damaged homes prior to receiving necessary permits.
The city’s planning committee also approved the overlay district with the oversight committee of five neighborhood residents. The neighborhood association selected three members, while the council and Mayor Jason Shelton each picked a member.
City officials emphasized creation of neighborhood conservation districts must result from residents’ request. However, Shelton said approving the residential protection avoids uncertainty for property owners living near houses destroyed in the tornado.
“To me, taking a chance of losing the integrity of the Joyner neighborhood isn’t an option,” he said.
Sharon Hills Neighborhood Association also has approved a similar neighborhood conservation overlay district but must also comply with the required days to pass after publishing plans for the change.
Some residents of Bel Air Neighborhood Association recently voiced concern related to the size of the proposed overlay district and could vote next week on revised plan to include only areas directly impacted by the tornado.
Councilman Markel Whittington of Ward 1 told Bel Air residents earlier this week to decide whether the protective measure makes sense for them.
“It’s not a city directive,” he said. “It’s whatever your wishes are.”