Jasper eyes residences in commercial buildings

Jasper eyes residences in commercial buildings

March 17th, 2014 by Ryan Lewis in Local Regional News

Buildings surround the courthouse square in Jasper, Tenn. Jasper is considering changing its zoning ordinance to allow residences in commercial buildings downtown. (Photo by Ryan Lewis)

JASPER, Tenn. - City leaders are about to make changes to Jasper's zoning ordinance that would allow residential uses for buildings around its courthouse square.

The Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously last week to approve the amendment on first reading.

Alderman Paul "Mac" Bumpus, who is also a member of the city's planning commission, said the modifications will allow residential uses for buildings in Jasper's C-1 business district, but it will come with certain restrictions.

"The C-1 business district is the courthouse square," he said. "In a lot of your other towns, they are allowing for residential units to be upstairs and the usual places."

The residential units, such as condominiums or apartments, would be allowed on the upper floors or the rear of any structure in the C-1 district, officials said.

Bumpus said the first floor of a building that faces the front street must be maintained for commercial use, and a residential unit's floor plan must include at least 850 square feet and have one off-street parking space "dedicated to the use of the residents."

Jasper's planning commission, which also approved the change unanimously recently, recommended the board's action.

City Attorney Mark Raines said there are several buildings around the courthouse square that can facilitate residential space.

"This was an effort to kind of mix residential and business together," he said. "For some of those businesses, the hope is maybe they'll live up top or rent it out for additional income."

Parts of several buildings in the downtown area have been used as residences "for a while," Bumpus said.

"This is already going on," Mayor Paul Evans said. "We're just making it legal now."

The board will vote for a final time on the ordinance change at its next regular meeting on April 14 at 6 p.m. CDT.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.