House a test case for evolving neighborhood

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A tidy brick home on the corner of Jefferson and Park streets stands as the final barrier between a growing commercial district and a once robust residential neighborhood.
But that barrier soon could fall – at least partially – as the home’s owner seeks to rezone the property for business or commercial use.
Since November, Pamela Morris has lobbied the city to rezone the property at 826 W. Jefferson St., to increase the likelihood it will sell and ultimately be preserved.
It’s currently slated residential, but no one wants it as a single-family dwelling, Morris said, because it’s the only home on the entire square block – and the only piece of property not owned by the Gloster Street Church of Christ.
The church recently knocked down several other houses on Park and Jefferson streets, including the former Mockingbird Inn Bed and Breakfast. Now the Morris home sits alone with vacant lots on either side of it and a large church complex nearby.
Across Jefferson Street is a two-story commercial building that houses a yoga studio, take-out restaurant and accountant. It barely shields Burger King and Kroger from view. Across Park Street are homes from the waning residential district.
City Planner Pat Falkner wants to preserve that residential district and has told the City Council he worries rezoning the property will further erode it.
“Anytime you have a zoning boundary where there’s commercial on one side, residential on the other side,” Falkner said, “we have to ask if this property is going to be a benefit if it’s developed commercially or if it’s going to be detrimental to the residential area.”
But Morris said such a move actually would protect the house by allowing a business to move in and add to the city tax base. The alternative, she hinted, would be its deterioration for lack of an occupant.
“It’s a house that I’d like to preserve,” said Morris, who said the structure survived the 1936 tornado. “I don’t want to see it sit there. It would make a great office.”
The Tupelo Planning Committee in November had denied Morris’s request to rezone it commercial. Morris then appealed to the council, whose members voted in December to send it back to the Planning Committee.
The committee will look at the issue again Monday, said Development Services Director BJ Teal. When it does, its members will consider a different zoning request: not commercial, but residential-office. It would allow a dentist, doctor or some other professional practice to occupy the dwelling. But it couldn’t house a store, restaurant or other busy commercial venture.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com