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Commission denies student housing

Despite meeting city storm-water and zoning requirements, the Oxford Planning Commission denied a proposed student-geared housing development off Price Hill Road because they felt it wasn’t harmonious to the surrounding older neighborhoods.

The proposed development, U Club Townhomes, came before the commission in November but was tabled to allow the developer, American Campus, to meet with residents on Price Hill Road, St. Andrew’s Circle and County Club Road.

The development is located in RB, or Two-Unit, zoning and meets the maximum amount of units allowed in an RB zone. Plans presented Monday at the commission’s regular meeting showed the development to have 68 duplex units, with 132 three-bedroom buildings consisting of more than 550 beds. Six acres on the 23 acres were left undisturbed to provide a buffer to the existing neighborhoods.

The property is located to the north of Jackson Avenue West, east of Price Hill Road and west of the old Oxford Mall.

A traffic count was conducted on March 26, 2015, resulting in a minor change to the southbound lane of Price Hill Road to allow for additional stacking. The Storm Water Detention Management Report was reviewed and approved by city engineers and meets the requirements of city codes. City staff recommended approving the project.

However, that wasn’t enough insurance for the neighbors, and ultimately the commissioners, to protect the northern neighborhoods against possible erosion and storm-water runoff issues.

Chuck Carroll, with American Campus, told the commission he and his development team have “worked diligently” on the project to help ease the neighbor’s fears.

“We’ve condensed the site plan from what we presented in November; however, we did not change the density,” he said. “We pulled the structures in, to provide more of a buffer.”

The runoff goes to the north naturally and residents of St. Andrew’s Circle and Club House Road told the commission there already are flooding issues in their neighborhoods.

“When they start clear-cutting 17 acres of land, it’s going to get worse,” said Phillip Embry, who lives near the proposed development. “My concern is we will have more silt and sand filing up the ditches and the underground drainage system they propose.”

Project engineer Paul Koshenina with Precision Engineering said the neighborhoods have experienced significant flooding issues for 20 years or more.

“Not caused by this project,” he said. “Most of the issues are caused by erosion. Once the development has buildings and landscaping, it would greatly reduce the erosion.”

Koshenina said the contractor would have to be diligent during construction to make sure runoff was controlled.

Commissioner John Bradley asked Koshenina if he could assure neighbors against increased flooding.

“They are at no more risk than any other downstream neighborhood,” Koshenina replied.

The development’s only entrance would be off of Price Hill Road. Resident Lisa Jenkins told the commission residents in Price Hill have a hard time getting in and out of their neighborhood now, never mind with more than 500 more cars.

“I sit at the light there for 15 minutes in the morning,” she said. “It’s very hard to get out.”

Commissioner Jon Fisher, who lives in the Country Club neighborhood, made the motion to deny the development, which passed unanimously by the five out of seven commissioners who attended the meeting.

In other business Monday, the commission:

— Approved 4 to 1 a gated entrance for The Domain development. Commissioner Duncan Gray was the dissenting vote.

— Approved a sign variance and a landscape variance for Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi.

— Approved a 10-foot rear yard variance for McAlister’s on University Avenue.

— Denied a sign variance for Ross clothing store in the Oxford Galleria II commercial development.

— Approved the final plat for The Grove at Grand Oaks.

— Approved the site plan for The Market at Thacker, which includes the Corner Market grocery store and three other commercial and retail buildings.

— Approved the site plan for The Sansing at Oxford Commons.

— Tabled a request for a preliminary plat approval for Oxford Commons Planned Unit Development.