OUR OPINION: Tupelo takes substantial steps for its recovery

Leaders in Tupelo city government and the private sector ramped up their response to tornado recovery this week. Future-focused initiatives were approved to strongly encourage rebuilding with a substantial tax break and planning intensified to enhance what’s rebuilt in the important North Gloster Street corridor.

Tupelo City Council approved a special tax break for property owners – residential and commercial – who remain in the city and rebuild structures with a higher assessed value than what was destroyed or damaged by the April 28 tornado.

Mayor Jason Shelton explained the tax break like this: “If a $100,000 building was destroyed and you build back a $200,000 building, you’re taxed for $100,000.”

The abatement would last for five years.

School taxes, which are not part of the general tax levy, would not be included in the abatement.

Construction permit fees already have been waived to encourage rebuilding and recovery, and the Joyner neighborhood has approved a conservation overlay plan to help ensure property values. That is expected to clear the City Council when preliminary legal process requirements are met.

In addition, on Monday afternoon North Gloster business owners, architects, city development services officials and professional staff from the Community Development Foundation participated in a design charette – a creative brainstorming session – to develop a vision for changes and enhancements on the hardest-hit commercial stretch along North Gloster Street. A second session is set for June 27 at 10 a.m. at Holiday Inn Suites.

The locally generated recovery effort is necessary because, even with substantial federal and state recovery assistance available, it is not full coverage, to borrow an insurance term.

In almost all situations related to damage and recovery the property owners face some out-of-pocket expenses, but in cases of massive natural disaster and widespread damage a community’s best interests are served by maximizing assistance.

Even as the city, private sector, state and federal governments step up their involvement, the harder reality is that Tupelo’s recovery will be long and difficult, requiring continuing perseverance and innovation by property owners and the community at large.

It is helpful and inspirational to remember that Tupelo fully recovered from an even more powerful and deadly tornado in 1936, with a renewed city set for unprecedented growth following World War II.