By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The city lacks a clear strategy for neighborhood revitalization but otherwise earned fair marks for its fidelity to the Tupelo 2025 Comprehensive Plan, according to an annual report presented this week.
City Council members unanimously accepted the report Tuesday, the same day they readopted the comprehensive plan itself.
Unveiled in 2008, the plan is a thick document with numerous recommendations to steer the city’s growth over the next two decades. Unlike the previous plan, which focused on building outward on large lots with little public space, the current plan envisions a more urban environment with compact development and interconnected green spaces.
The city must readopt the plan each year, and its planning officials must prepare an annual report of Tupelo’s progress on implementing those recommendations.
“The annual review is healthy,” City Planner Pat Falkner told the council. “It helps us remember what we’re supposed to accomplish.”
Council members first received the four-page brief Monday. Among other findings, it revealed that Tupelo completed revisions to 75 percent of its municipal development code to better align it with the plan’s recommendations.
It also drafted a citywide bicycle and pedestrian improvement plan, and has acquired funding for at least one sidewalk and bike lane project with applications pending for others.
And Tupelo received high marks for extensive collaboration with business leaders and a budding working relationship with the city school district.
But the city lacks consensus on how to revitalize its older, deteriorating neighborhoods, the report says. It acknowledges recent efforts by the City Council and other municipal and business leaders to tackle the problem, but those efforts fell short of producing any substantial plan.
It also notes that the Development Services Department lost a key position this year – that of senior planner – and said it will need to revive that job to complete important work.
But there’s hope these shortfalls can be remedied this coming year, in part because the council last week approved a plan that would set aside $600,000 annually for neighborhood improvements.
It has yet to fund that plan, however.
“I am so pleased that through the budget process the council and the mayor are in support of the comprehensive plan,” said Development Services Director BJ Teal. “As a department, we realize that we don’t have the funding we would like to have, but we feel like we have been and will continue to be as creative as possible to make sure we can do what the plan recommends.”