Maximum fines sought for home renovation on South Green Street

TUPELO – Property owner Tim Hester will face at least $30,000 in fines for altering a historic home without city permission.
The Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission on Thursday voted to recommend a judge slap Hester with the maximum penalties allowed under its ordinance for his violations.
But if Hester complies with the law, members said, they’ll ask for those fines to be reduced.
Hester hired workers to rip an addition off the historic property at 480 S. Green St. The crew also removed the house’s front porch and most of its facade.
The structure is an original mill worker’s home likely built in the early part of the 20th century, and it sits inside both the Mill Village local historic district and the National Register of Historic Places.
All major renovations require a city permit, which Hester did not have. And because the house is located in a local historic district, it also must meet Historic Preservation Commission approval.
“We don’t expect property owners to know as much as contractors about our permitting process,” Chief Building Inspector David Wammack said during the commission meeting. “But Tim Hester is not your average property owner. He has done a lot of work in the city.”
Hester, who has a history of building renovations, admitted to the Daily Journal last month that he should have gotten the permit. He also said he’d apply for a Certificate Of Appropriateness, which the commission must grant before the city issues a permit inside a local historic district.
But as of Thursday, neither the city nor the commission had received the COA application. For that reason, members said they wanted to seek the maximum penalties.
Hester did not return a call for comment.
“I think it needs to be strong enough to get his attention,” said member Doyce Deas.
For each violation – no COA and no permit – Hester faces a fine of up to $500 per day for each day since the violation was detected. The city had discovered the work Sept. 16, meaning the total amount stands at $29,000 as of today.
Wammack said he’ll file the citation in Municipal Court and recommend the penalty to the judge. The fine can be lowered, the commission decided, if Hester complies with the law within 30 days of his court date. That date hasn’t been set.
Once the commission receives Hester’s COA application, it can require Hester to restore the building to its pre-alteration condition or it can allow him to proceed with his plans to alter or even demolish the house.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal