Tupelo Council likely to pass updated code

Tupelo stockBy Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – After a months of setbacks and postponements, the Tupelo City Council could possibly pass an updated development code next week.

Council president Nettie Davis thought the effort to update the development code would have passed earlier in the term, but she’s optimistic there’s enough council support to pass it Tuesday.

During a work session earlier this week, Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington said he plans to support the first updates to the development code since 1994. He joins council members Davis, Buddy Palmer of Ward 5 and Lynn Bryan of Ward 2.

Councilman Mike Bryan of Ward 6 said he’s ready to move on to other issues, but didn’t indicate whether he will vote for the code in its current form.

Generally, the updated code is intended to give commercial and residential developers more flexibility when bringing new projects to the city, while also maintaining standards. The council also will vote on a simplified zoning map. Efforts for the changes are related to the city’s comprehensive plan passed in 2009.

An issue for some council members is fewer restrictions on used car dealerships opening in the Barnes Crossing Overlay District, which allows used car dealerships now but requires the city to grant a variance first.

Recently, the City Council did not approve Tupelo Planning Committee minutes recommending CarMax, a Fortune 500 company, to proceed with plans to build at a location within the overlay district. A few current used car dealership owners in the city objected, saying they’d been turned down informally by city officials in attempts to open similar businesses in that area more than a decade ago.

“This development code has focused on one issue and we need to get past that,” Whittington said. “It’s for the entire city.”

Councilman Jim Newell of Ward 3, who represents South Gloster Street where many used car dealers are located, said he plans to object to the development code.

The city held multiple public hearings to get input about the code, the City Council discussed it four times before June 30, and the council held discussions since the new administration took office in July.

robbie.ward@journalinc.com