Some newly vacant residential lots are stirring concerns about the character of what could come to downtown Corinth.

The City of Corinth Planning Commission has begun its study of possible new building specifications and guidelines for a residential section of downtown. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen recently enacted a 90-day moratorium on construction of residences less than 2,100 square feet in the area zoned R-1A and directed the planning commission to develop some recommendations for controls on future development in the area.

The R-1A single-family zoning is generally in an area between Main Street and Shiloh Road.

The move to tighten restrictions came about after a group of concerned citizens submitted a petition to the mayor and aldermen. According to city officials, the residents had learned of a property owner’s plan to construct a pair of 700-square-foot rental properties on Fillmore Street in an area where a house was demolished, and there was nothing in the existing code to prevent it.

With the destruction left by the freak wind storm last October and the emergence of several vacant lots, City Attorney Arch Bullard said the feeling is “if people are going to start wanting to build in the downtown, then we need to make sure that there is some integrity to the community.”

He said one possibility is to set forth some general restrictions – things such as requiring construction to be brick, wood or a simulation of wood. Another possibility is to create a neighborhood conservation overlay district with additional regulations beyond the standard zoning rules.

In some cities that have regulations to protect the aesthetics of older neighborhoods, a panel is appointed to review and approve development.

“It needs to be a matter of does this property fit in with the rest of the neighborhood and will it bring the property values up or down in that neighborhood,” said commission member Jennifer McCoy.

One of the main issues to be settled is what will be the boundaries of the proposed district. There was discussion of whether it should include the nearby Old Town District, which encompasses an L-shaped area south of Main Street. Buildings Inspector Greg Tyson noted that what works for Fillmore Street is not going to fit an area such as Washington Street, although it is just four blocks away.

The commission might also consider recommending a focus on an area smaller than the entirety of the R-1A zones, which contain “a huge diversity of building styles and quality,” said Lee Thurner, the commission chairman.

While the moratorium is based on square footage, “Size is really not the relevant issue. You’re really looking to retain character,” said Dave Huwe, the city’s director of community development and planning.

The commission members are reviewing information on special districts in cities in other states as they prepare to formulate recommendations to present to the city board.

Staff Writer

Jebb Johnston is a 1991 Alcorn Central High School graduate and a 1995 Ole Miss journalism graduate. His primary beats are city and county government.

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