By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – The Tupelo City Council likely will decide next week whether to adopt the updated development code after the previous council lacked the votes to approve an earlier version two months ago.
Council members seem optimistic that it will pass on Tuesday after city planner Pat Falkner informed them about changes to the section related to billboards, a part a billboard company found objectionable.
Falkner and BJ Teal, Development Services Department head, said the new code will give builders more options, easing restrictions found in the current laws while still maintaining high levels of standards for commercial and residential development in Tupelo.
“It’s the public perception of red tape,” Teal said during a City Council work session on Tuesday. “We need to create a more receptive working relationship with people who want to do business with the city.”
During the council’s last meeting in June before the current term began, council members deadlocked by a 3-3 vote. Councilman Mike Bryan of Ward 6 was absent. Representatives with Lamar Advertising, a company that owns many billboards in the city and nationwide, objected at the time to elimination of billboards at key city streets after five years.
Falkner said changes in the new code responding to the billboard company’s concerns include allowing replacement of some billboards in the city with digital billboards and eliminating the provision that noncomforming billboards must be taken down within five years.
Council president Nettie Davis said she feels comfortable with the council voting on the document Tuesday. Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington said developers who discussed it with him called it an improvement from the existing development code.
Mayor Jason Shelton, who campaigned on loosening regulations in the city, said he’s still reviewing the updated code and will likely suggest more revisions.
Future plans to change the document may not keep the council from voting on it next week. Teal and council members have acknowledged that the document can change even after approved.
“If there’s questions or changes, they can be changed,” Davis said. “There’s nothing that says we can’t revise them.”
The council also has plans to approve a new zoning map for the city but no date has been set for a vote.