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Mayfield City Council rezones parts of historic downtown to aid in tornado recovery

A specialized truck with an attached crane picks up debris along the road in Mayfield.
Liam Niemeyer / WKMS News
A specialized truck with an attached crane picks up debris along the road in Mayfield.

The Mayfield City Council approved a motion on Monday to begin rezoning a section of their downtown severely impacted by the December 2021 tornado outbreak.

The city identified a number of downtown blocks – including 7th and 8th streets – as a “red zone” in June,putting the area under a building permit freeze to give the city’s planning committees time to decide how the space would be rebuilt.

Mark Arnold, an urban planner with Lexington’s Bell Engineering, shared a presentation during the meeting outlining a vision for the area – which is now classified as B-3, a less restrictive level of commercial zoning – over the next couple of years.

Arnold equates his role in the recovery process with that of a painter, putting broad brushstrokes on a portrait of a new city.

“For six months, we've been painting a new town together, and I'm adding color. I'm painting a town, but it's from everybody’s comments,” Arnold said. “It just sort of resonated with me that that's what we have been working on together … [a] visualization of a whole new town.”

Arnold’s plan consists of re-designating the “red zone” to a mixed-use zone where both residential homes and commercial buildings can co-exist in a single space. He submitted a fifty-page paper to the council filled with guidelines and instructions for how to turn the plan into a reality.

“And, it says we’re encouraging commercial development,” he said. “We're encouraging business development. But more than anything, we're encouraging… into that area in all forms of residential development, we want to see this mix.”

The roadmap for the future look of the downtown area includes bringing more contemporary businesses into the area and possible features, Arnold said, will include mixing residential areas with new commercial additions, like a makerspace, or the potential expansion of Harmon Park into a tornado memorial park.

An official with the Mayfield Rebuilds committee for business announced that a deal has been made to acquire land for the new makerspace facility in the “red zone” and steps are being taken to find grant money to cover the costs of the venture.

Arnold also says the plan includes engineering the new urban canopy to include green spaces and create an opportunity to restore the trees lost in the tornado, possibly in a newly expanded Harmon Park.

“Think about this park as an expansion…a place where we can talk about our history here,” he said. “We can start to rebuild near the cupola of the court house, something here that really starts to rebuild downtown.”