• 50°

Vision 2037 nears reality

Planning out Oxford’s tomorrows can be a lengthy process.

The city of Oxford hired the Orion Planning Group in March to redo the city’s Comprehensive Plan that would map out Oxford’s future over the next 20 years and guide its rapid growth in a direction that best fits Oxford.

Robert Barber, president of Orion Planning, and members of his planning team met with the Vision 2037 Planning Advisory Group on Thursday in a public meeting to review key points to the plan and discuss whether or not the planninggroup was on the right track in their vision of Oxford’s future.

Barber pointed out that if the city continued along the track of its current zoning, 60 percent of the city would be built under Multi-Family zoning.

“It upsets the balance between single-family homes and multifamily,” Barber said.

Rather than having large chunks of land zoned with one type of zoning, as the city’s current zoning stands, under the new Comprehensive Plan, the city would instead be divided under “place types,” such as Rural, Urban and Suburban areas. A place type is an urban design tool used to guide and evaluate development in terms of form, scale and function in the built environment. This includes descriptions, standards and graphic examples of each place type.

Under the Urban place type, which planners recommend is more encouraged, building is done in a mixed-use scenario, having commercial and residential together with businesses close to the street for easier pedestrian access and parking in the rear. Much like the downtown Square.

Lee Jones, with Third Coast Design Studio and part of the planning team, said during public hearings, the group heard a lot of complaints about West Jackson Avenue and several compliments about the Square.

“We’re seeing across the country, areas getting back to using more urban place types,” he said. “For a long time here, that type of development has been illegal. Zoning codes wouldn’t let you put parking in the rear or build up to the street like what’s seen on the Square.”

Suburban place type is more traditional, buildings are pushed back off the street and parking is out front. There may be some residential, have curb cuts and single businesses, like the gas station and convenience store in a neighborhood.

“Things can be done though to make suburban areas better, gentler, more appealing,” Jones said. “Landscaping is a major tool for that. Using less curb cuts and more pedestrian level signage. We want to discourage having a big, blank parking lot.”

Some questions from those attending the meeting Thursday were more about the actual laws and codes that would need to be devised to implement the changes in Vision 2037.

“We’re not at that point yet,” Jones said.

Mayor Pat Patterson asked what does the city do when a developer comes in with a mixed-use plan and only develops the multi-unit residential part and doesn’t complete the other components, like the retail areas.

Jones suggested when it came time to write the codes, to add verbiage where a developer could not complete the residential part of the development before starting on the commercial areas.

Patterson said there would be at least two public hearings held before the Board of Aldermen adopts the new Vision 2037 plan, which he said he expects will go before the board at its Oct. 20 meeting.

To view the PowerPoint presented Thursday on the Vision 2037 plan, visit www.oxfordms.net and look under Latest News.