By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Nearly eight in 10 Joyner neighborhood residents entered a damaged church Thursday to embrace another layer of government bureaucracy, a gesture of love to a place stronger than any tornado.
Nearly 150 residents of the Joyner Neighborhood Association voted by an overwhelming margin to support an overlay district after an April 28 twister destroyed and damaged dozens of residences, uprooting trees and leaving behind millions of dollars in recovery costs.
City officials and neighborhood residents anticipate a valuable tool in the conservation overlay district, which will require city-issued building permits to receive approval from a five-member design review committee prior to construction.
Joyner Neighborhood Association president Keith Kantack felt emotional as he watched fellow residents of the roughly 700-home neighborhood cast ballots in St. Luke United Methodist Church’s gymnasium.
“This is pure community involvement,” he said. “I don’t think this happens everywhere in America.”
The overlay district needs City Council approval, something Joyner resident and councilman Lynn Bryan promised in a matter of days.
After the neighborhood protection effort passed, six residents testified to their devotion to Joyner homes, streets, neighbors and sense of community – each volunteering to serve on the design review committee, a key part of the overlay district.
Residents listened as many potential committee members stood in front of the crowd and mentioned different houses in Joyner where they’ve lived.
Shane Ingellis’ Joyner Avenue home has remained constant through his life, from elementary school to the professional landscaper’s adulthood. The 28-year-old inherited the property from his dad after his mom died in 2007. He remembers damage from the 1994 ice storm impacting the area but not like the recent tornado.
“I want to rejuvenate the neighborhood, the trees, the plants,” he told the group. “I want to help the place come back.”
Ingellis didn’t get enough votes to serve on the committee but still plans to offer his landscaping skills as part of the recovery process.
Selected to the committee were Ed Neelly Jr., Chanda Cossitt and David Handley.
Mayor Jason Shelton and the City Council each will select a member to the design review committee.
Joyner homes have high value for Tupelo officials who want to encourage more middle-class residents to stay within the city limits and encourage others to consider the city home.
Tupelo City Planner Pat Falkner said leaving the area without a method to regulate new construction could jeopardize Joyner’s coveted personality and charm.
“If it changes to include poor quality, bad design, inappropriate aesthetics and architecture, then the neighborhood and city has lost a tremendous asset,” he said.