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Oxford leaders approve Vision 2037 plan

The Oxford Board of Aldermen has approved a new comprehensive plan that takes a new approach in guiding the city’s growth and changes the way development will occur over the next 20 years.

Vision 2037, as the new comp plan has been named, was unanimously approved by the aldermen during their regular meeting Tuesday at City Hall.

The approval comes after almost two years of work by the city’s planning department, Orion Development Group and an advisory committee made up of local citizens, business owners and University of Mississippi representatives.

The city began the process of updating its comprehensive plan in 2014 after hiring the Orion Planning Group to assist with that effort. Several public hearings were held to gain input from the community and in June, the updated Land Use Types Map was presented to the public for review at the Oxford Conference Center.

The comprehensive plan was last updated in 2004; however since Oxford has grown and changed so rapidly in the last 10 years, city leaders felt it was important for a new plan.

“This plan creates communities and neighborhoods, not just areas of strip malls,” said City Planner Judy Daniel. “There’s been so much work by so many people.”

The updated plan uses current planning “smart growth” philosophy, which has replaced the “sprawl” philosophies that many communities have used for decades, where areas had one type of zoning in one area; had a center of town with neighborhoods sprawled out beyond that center.

The plan encourages building urban, suburban and rural communities with housing and transportation choices near jobs, shops and schools. Communities will have more mixed-uses moving forward, like having residential units on top of small businesses and the creation of town centers.

The city has had a moratorium on granting special exceptions to allow residential in general and neighborhood business zoned areas for more than a year. The city put the moratorium in after developments along University Avenue were granted the special exceptions and were met with criticism by citizens living nearby and city leaders.

To allow for more mixed-use development to occur, Daniel asked the aldermen to list the moratorium.

“Some of those developments have changed the landscape of that area and are the results of special exceptions to allow residential in commercial areas,” said Alderman Janice Antonow. “It’s one thing if someone wants to build residential above a store, but we have to be really careful about what we approve.”

Daniel agreed and assured the aldermen that the planning department will closely examine all requests for the special exceptions.

“Everything will be gone over with a fine-tooth comb,” Daniel said.

The aldermen unanimously approved lifting the moratorium.

Another moratorium halting requests to rezone property to multi-unit zoning, or RC, will remain in place.

Vision 2037 does not address zoning but rather makes suggestions on density and land use.

“We will now begin work to make changes to the Land Development Code and zoning map,” Daniel told the aldermen.