By NEMS Daily Journal
The Barnes Crossing shopping district’s prolific growth since it emerged from farmland 23 years ago has made it the hub of retail activity in Northeast Mississippi, the engine of Tupelo’s sales tax collections that keep property taxes reasonable, and one of the most profitable venues anywhere for some of the regional and national chains represented.
This success story is owed to many factors, but certainly among them are city ordinances that govern aesthetics in the area – including one that prevents the visual clutter and blight of large and competing signs that mar the view in so many shopping districts elsewhere.
Pleasing aesthetics – the look and feel of a place – are not just nice to have in today’s retail environment, they’re a key advantage in attracting businesses and customers. Tupelo’s will over the years to enforce its sign ordinances, in the Barnes Crossing area and elsewhere, demonstrates an awareness of that reality.
For these reasons, Mayor Jack Reed Jr.’s veto of the City Council’s 4-3 vote to override the Planning Commission and allow Carlock Toyota to install a sign twice the size allowed by city ordinance was correct and necessary. The council should sustain the mayor’s veto.
Allowing this exception would produce one of two outcomes: An unfair preference for one business over others, or more exceptions that would threaten to mar the visual order and appeal of the area. Either way, the city as a whole loses.
Carlock representatives attempted to couch a city exception for them as symbolic of the “special relationship” between Tupelo and Toyota and suggested the company wanted a bigger sign. But when asked, a Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi spokesperson was quick to respond that the manufacturing company – with which the city and region have that special relationship – didn’t request the exception. Indeed, once a Toyota plant is in a community, the company’s corporate culture has always stressed being a good citizen and blending in with the community fabric, not attempting to change it to Toyota’s advantage.
Carlock was aware of the regulations, and the visibility of its site, when it chose to locate where it did off Highway 45. The city would be unable to fairly and rationally deny any other car dealership in the area – or any other business for that matter – a request for similar treatment.
The Planning Commission made the right decision, and the decision should stand.