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Trees will be planted on North Lamar in Oxford

When construction started to boom again in Oxford after the Great Recession, city leaders and tree lovers became concerned about the loss of the city’s tree canopy and ordinances were put in place requiring developers to adhere to strict guidelines before removing trees from construction sites and present detailed landscaping plans.

Those who failed to meet those regulations could be hit with some hefty fines and their construction projects put on hold.

Big Leaf Development, owned by Mike Bennett, got a second chance to rectify violating the city’s tree ordinances Monday by the Oxford Planning Commission after clear-cutting a lot off North Lamar Boulevard.

According to city planners, an application was submitted for a site plan to the Planning Department in April for a two-story commercial building on the west side of North Lamar just north of Bee’s Antiques. It was noted at that time the site had already been cleared sometime between June 2014 and February 2016.

Bennett told planners he was told by the Oxford Building Department he could stockpile fill dirt on the site but was unaware that the removal of trees required a site plan approval.

A replanting plan was submitted by Big Leaf Development showing the developers will re-plant enough trees on site to achieve a future 40 percent canopy coverage. If during the development of the proposed commercial building, the developer is unable to plant the number of trees submitted in the plan, he can provide payment to the city’s Tree Escrow Account.

The commission approved the after-the-fact tree removal variance and approved the re-planting plan. The developer will pay a $740 fine.

In other business Monday, the Commission:

•Recognized Commissioner Hayden Alexander’s last meeting. Alexander resigned from the commission last month. Three positions on the planning commission are currently open and applications can be delivered to the Mayor’s Office.

•Approved a special exception to allow residential condominium in a Downtown Business District for the Vieux Carre building on the second floor.

•Approved a special exception for residential uses in a General Business district for a development at 111 Heritage Drive.

•Approved a final plat amendment to the Ammadelle Subdivision off Price Street.

•Approved the final plat for The Heights in Oxford Commons, phases 5 and 17; however, no more than 19 certificates of occupancy will be issued until changes are made to the Sisk Avenue and Highway 7 intersection as deemed necessary in a recent traffic study.

•Approved the preliminary plat for Pea Ridge Subdivision on Pea Ridge Road.