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Public hearing held for proposed rezoning of Oxford’s first Traditional Neighborhood Development

A public hearing held Tuesday on the proposed rezoning of 49 acres to Oxford’s first Traditional Neighborhood Development brought both criticisms and praise from local residents in an hour-long discussion before the Oxford Board of Aldermen.

The public hearing was the second reading of the proposed ordinance to rezone the land that is now zoned Single Family, Residential Estate and General Business, to the new TND zoning. No action was taken by the aldermen who are expect to vote on the zoning change in two weeks.

The aldermen will only be considering the rezoning request. Future site plans and specific details will be considered by the city’s planning department, the Oxford Planning Commission and in some instances, the Board of Aldermen.

Developer Mac Monteith said the multi-use development will be built in phases over the next 10 or more years.

“It will be a living and breathing town within the town of Oxford,” he told the board. “The footprint is about the size of Pat Lamar Park. In the core will be commercial and retail services, with a focus on small business. It will be a place where you can live above your workplace.”

Located between North Lamar Boulevard and Chickasaw Road, the property is mostly vacant, although portions closer to North Lamar were once occupied by Britt Mobile Homes.

City Planner Judy Daniel told the commission the recently adopted Vision 2037 Comprehensive Plan recommends the Traditional Neighborhood Development zoning at this location.

The Lamar Town Center, which is currently being called, is being planned to create a community of businesses, restaurants, and retail shops opening to tree lined streets and open space areas — green and plazas. When completely built out, there is the potential for about 1,000 residents to live in various housing options which include single-family attached and detached homes and condominiums and townhouses.

Before approving a rezoning request, the board must find that there has been a change to the character of the neighborhood and a public need for the new zoning. Daniel told the board much has changed in the area over recent years, including upgrades to Molly Barr Road and the building of several multifamily developments in the area.

Residents have concerns

Residents living close to the proposed development voiced concerns about the density, increased traffic and erosion and storm water runoff.

Vivian Street resident Mary Kuhnle told the board she did not believe the character of her neighborhood has changed to warrant such a densely populated development nearby.

“You cannot truly say there’s been a change in the neighborhood,” said Kuhnle, who has lived on Vivian for 31 years. “Our neighborhood should not be reclassified. The planners are using semantics to enlarge the definition of neighborhood. We don’t need another small town … The Oxford Square is the only town center we need … I’m not opposed to developing that land. I am opposed to rezoning it to TND.”

William Dunn, who also lives on Vivian, said he lived in Sweden for two years where TNDs are already a popular zoning choice.

“The difference is the density is one-fourth of what they are proposing here,” Dunn told the aldermen. “We’re all for the development of that area, but we don’t think it needs the density that is proposed.”

Robert Walker with Neel-Schaffer Engineering presented the board with a traffic study on the projected impact of the development. Generally, a traffic study is done and presented during site plan approval; however, Monteith said he had one done to help alleviate some of the concerns of residents close to his proposed development.

Walker said the report shows that traffic signals at the two entrances planned for North Lamar Boulevard and a turning lane on Molly Barr Road from the east going into the development.

“Substantial improvements will need to be made,” he said.

Mayor Pat Patterson asked project engineer Paul Koshenina, with Precision Engineering, how will water and silt run-off be handled during and after construction.

“If I lived down below this project, I’d be worried as hell too,” Patterson said. “How are you going to handle that?”

Koshenina said the city’s regulations are very stringent when it comes to run-off and that Public Works Director Bart Robinson scrutinizes all developments closely.

“We don’t have all the final details yet as this is the rezoning part of the process,” he said. “We will have more detail further in the process. We will be doing it in stages, not bulldozing the whole thing at once.”

Patterson told Koshenina should the rezoning be approved by the board, the project will be watched closely.

“We understand that,” Koshenina replied.

One resident asked how much the residential units will be sold for. Monteith said he didn’t want to be too specific as the project will be done in phases over several years, but told the aldermen they will “sell several products with the number one in front of the price, rather than a two or three.”

The Oxford Planning Commissioner recommended approval of the rezoning request earlier this month in a 3 to 2 vote with one commissioner abstaining. Commission chair Darryail Whittington told the aldermen Tuesday that the commission and selected committees worked hard in getting the TND zoning type and the Vision 2037 plan established.

“We had a lot of input from the community,” he said. “This is a good location for a TND. It’s important we have more mixed-use communities. This is a very good example of what we want in a TND.”

The third reading and vote on the rezoning request are expected to take place during the aldermen’s next meeting at 5 p.m. March 21 at City Hall.