TUPELO – Joyner neighborhood property owners rebuilding houses damaged and destroyed from a tornado a few months ago now need their neighbors’ approval prior to receiving a building permit.
The City Council voted 4-0 to approve the Joyner Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District on Thursday during a meeting focused on this single issue. The vote comes a month after nearly 150 neighborhood residents voted by nearly an 80 percent margin to approve the oversight process intended to protect the neighborhood’s integrity.
The neighborhood conservation district requires new construction and houses with exterior damage to receive a city permit to first receive approval from a five-member design review committee comprised of Joyner residents. Property owners must provide site and floor plans, full elevation drawings and related exterior materials list for construction and repairs.
The Tupelo Planning Committee unanimously approved the neighborhood overlay district prior to the council voting.
Before the vote, the council held a public hearing for comment on the new layer of oversight requested by residents. Keith Kantack, an attorney and Joyner Neighborhood Association president, said creating the residential safeguard would help protect a vulnerable area working to recover from the April 28 tornado.
“This is a devastatingly uncertain time for our neighborhood and Tupelo,” Kantack said after the meeting. “There are folks who do not have the best interest of Tupelo in mind.”
The overlay district will expire in six months unless the council decides to extend it.
Older neighborhoods like Joyner no longer have protections like covenants to restrict housing not in line with the neighborhood considered among the city’s best for middle-class residents.
The briefest council meeting this year, four council members provided the necessary quorum. Requirements to wait 15 days after advertising the intent to create the overlay district prevented the council from deciding on the proposal earlier this week during its Tuesday’s meeting.
Council members Markel Whittington of Ward 1, Lynn Bryan of Ward 2, Nettie Davis of Ward 4 and Buddy Palmer of Ward 5 attended the meeting.
The Sharon Hills Neighborhood Association also overwhelmingly approved a similar overlay district, which received approval from the planning committee. The council should decide whether to approve the overlay district within a week or so.
Mayor Jason Shelton said recently the idea for neighborhood conservation overlay districts emerged from discussions related to protecting neighborhoods prior to the tornado.