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Remember zoning is what it is

In October 2008, the Board of Supervisors adopted the Comprehensive Plan for Lafayette County.

That document contained a careful and detailed examination of many aspects of county development. For instance, one was a look at the need for building codes and a building inspector. Codes and inspector are now a fact of life in our County. For another example, the need to consider new roads was scrutinized, and now we see the extension of West Oxford Loop under consideration and a new road from Lafayette School to Highway 6.

The Comprehensive Plan gave full discussion to several plans to deal with future land use. Zoning was one of those presented. Zoning involves dividing the unincorporated ares into districts or zones and regulating various aspects of development in them. Traditional zoning delineates districts or zones according to the characteristics of the uses that make them compatible. Those ordinances regulate a number of key aspects:

— The height and bulk which may be occupied and the size of required open

spaces;

— The area of a lot which may be occupied and the size of required open space;

— The density of population (density limits i.e. units per acre, lot sizes);

— The use of buildings and land for commerce, industry, residence, or other

purposes:

— Development standards (parking, lighting, signage, access).

Zoning ordinances would also include procedures for review, hearings, and appeals.

But before you join a campaign for or against zoning, consider the strengths and

weaknesses that often go with it.

Traditional Zoning Strengths:

— Places public values on equal plane with private property interests;

— Protects neighborhoods from incompatible uses;

— Predictable;

— Easy to understand and administer;

— Legally defensible;

— Open process and extensive citizen input;

— Based upon a comprehensive plan.

Traditional Zoning Weaknesses:

— Can stifle creative development — encourages sameness and uniformity;

— Can be somewhat inflexible;

— Not always user friendly due to use of legalese:

— Questionable development quality and environmental impact;

— Sometimes used to exclude affordable housing and minorities;

— Can be out-of-synch with modern development forms/patterns unless updated.

So much about the past and present. Time to consider the future. Because most of the members of the board are committed to having zoning, a consultant on land use has been contracted.

His firm will come and carefully study the county and talk to scores of folks. In time a plan will be offered to the board. When its members are convinced the plan is right (which may be after much tweaking of details), a public hearing will be set. At that time any citizen in the county will have opportunity to address the board on the gains or disasters they see in the plan.

After considering the public reaction, the board will vote to adopt the plan or reject it. Rejection would mean continuing to do business as it’s been for a long time. Adoption would mean reviewing each land development application in light of the regulations for the type zone in which it is to be located.

That zoning is on the minds of many folks in the county should surprise no one.

As the city of Oxford’s space available for many kinds of development shrinks, more and more development will inevitably migrate outside the city limits.

As you engage in talk about zoning, remember one thing: if established it will not be the magic cure all for all development issues. At the end of the day, it will simply be a set of guidelines adopted with the aim of establishing community harmony, administered by residents who will not be moved to create disharmony.

TJ Ray, a retired professor of English at Ole Miss, can be reached at tjmaryjo@bellsouth.net.