By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Mayor Jason Shelton held a “soft rollout” for his city revitalization plan Monday.
It include a handful of old and new ideas to improve declining neighborhoods, increase home ownership and potentially remove structures – including apartment complexes – no longer compatible with zoning laws.
Shelton provided 10 approaches to revitalize blighted and threatened neighborhoods, some already in place and others not currently practiced in Mississippi.
The mayor’s plan is a response to concern since the 2010 Census for slowed population growth in Tupelo as smaller, neighboring communities continue to grow.
“These examples aren’t necessarily what we’re going to do,” Shelton told a City Hall crowd of neighborhood association presidents and other residents. “It’s what we’re looking at.”
Shelton himself seemed uncertain about some ideas as he shared them for the first time. Specifically, he announced interest in amortization, a zoning tool used to remove buildings and other structures in areas where zoning prohibits them. Currently, structures in place prior to zoning changes have permission to remain. This proposed option could require, for example, removal of apartment complexes along Ida Street after a period of time set by city leadership.
“I don’t mind saying in public I’m not sure where I am on that right now,” Shelton said.
It’s not clear if this practice currently exists in Mississippi. Another idea in Shelton’s plan is L3Cs, short for low-profit limited liability companies, that often work with communities in solving social problems. Currently, these aren’t used anywhere in Mississippi and would require the Legislature to pass special legislation before they could operate.
Other ideas shared include existing tools, such as renewing neighborhood pride and encouraging grants for first-time homebuyers through the Mississippi Home Corporation, a state-created company to encourage more homeowners.
Tupelo has wrestled with declining neighborhoods for more than two decades as city leaders responded in limited fashion with limited success. The last city administration identified neighborhoods losing appeal and value as a top concern and funded $2.9 million for the West Jackson Street redevelopment project.
Shelton said issues facing the city’s neighborhoods have developed through decades and require patience and resolve.
“We just have to roll up our sleeves and get this done,” he said.