By NEMS Daily Journal
The orderly and staged process by which a proposed new downtown exterior design code moves toward possible adoption by the City Council assures transparency and access for residents and property owners who have opinions to express them.
Approved by the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association’s board of directors on Tuesday, the 87-page package next moves to the Department of Development Services, whose planners will incorporate it into a proposed development code, then to publication for public reading, a public hearing, and then to the City Council, which will have the final say on what becomes an enforceable ordinance.
Urban design codes date from ancient times, but Tupelo, while having building codes, is relatively new to strictly enforced design standards citywide and in the historic downtown overlay district, a legally defined area consisting of the retail area of downtown Main Street, Fairpark and the area around the BancorpSouth Arena.
The area, in the main, has most of Tupelo’s oldest commercial and retail structures, some residential properties and relatively fewer contemporary buildings.
The design code proposal is not for the thrill of control but for enhancement of value through exterior appearances that are complementary. Uniqueness is not prohibited, but unrestrained and dissonant design and alteration from structure to structure would be difficult.
The proposal draws from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s design ideas for historic structures and from the design code of Collierville, Tenn., a suburb east of Memphis that has a historic downtown core surrounded by a burgeoning urban concentration, similar in some ways to Tupelo.
Brandon Bishop of JBHM Architects led a design committee comprised of Charlie Watson (Pryor amp& Morrow Architects), William Dexter (Pryor amp& Morrow), Shipman Sloan (JBHM), Marilyn Vail (city’s zoning administrator), David Wammack (city’s chief building inspector), Sherrie Cochran (city’s environment planner) and Main Street’s staff, including Executive Director Debbie Brangenberg.
Cities like Tupelo that experienced extended periods of rapid building and growth often became lax in code enforcement as the press for expansion pushed strict adherence to code enforcement aside. At times in the relatively recent past comments frequently were made that exceptions and exemptions to code requirements were Tupelo’s real code. Tupelo’s curb appeal suffered as a result and with it the rise in property values.
The situation for design standards and enforcement in Tupelo follows the same phenomenon in some other nearby cities whose marketability has soared and whose appearance has gained national notice.
The proposed standards won’t add any bureaucracy; they are intended to be clearer and, in the process, expedite rehabs, new construction and exterior changes.