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Supervisors unanimously approve zoning ordinance

OXFORD, Miss. – The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors approved the county zoning ordinance in a unanimous vote during last night’s meeting, marking the first time zoning has been implemented in the county.

The decision, which went into effect immediately after the vote, came after almost two years of discussion and multiple public hearings.

The final hearing was initially held on Tuesday morning, but was rescheduled until Thursday night due to the weather.

Mike Slaughter, of Slaughter & Associates, said the board did everything they could to make sure the people of Lafayette County were informed about the ordinance.

“This board, in my opinion, went above and beyond in seeking public opinion. We’ve had numerous public meetings here and throughout the county,” Slaughter said. “There are property owners around the county, whether they’re living on the Square or in the far corners of the county, that have certain rights, certain lifestyles, certain land uses that need to be protected.”

A large percentage of the county falls into two agricultural categories, A1 and A2. Closer to the city of Oxford, the categories allow for higher densities, from R1 to R2, C1 to C2 and C3. Those categories are designed to cover residential and commercial-use properties.

The boardroom was standing-room only, full of citizens ready to voice their concerns and express support for the ordinance, including Don Mason of Tula, who voiced his support and urged the board to pass the ordinance and modify it on a case-by-case basis.

“We moved here in 2003 and were shocked to learn that not only was there no building code… but no zoning either,” Mason said. “It’s very dismaying that here we are in 2018 and we’re still discussing zoning. I’m very concerned as a property owner, because zoning protects us. Yes, we have to give up a little bit, but it’s in the interest of the common good.”

Ruby Smith Kelly, a lifelong resident of Lafayette County who currently resides in the Etta community, spoke during the hearing as well.

Kelly said even though the idea of change may be intimidating, embracing it is what is best for the county.

“This is going to be different for the ones who were born and reared here, and who are not accustomed to zoning,” Kelly said. “We know change is going to come. I feel that if this ordinance is passed, with individuals coming to you and voicing their concerns, at least we have an umbrella to operate under.”

Three property owners in particular made requests for the board to place their land under a different classification, with two approved after a board vote and one dismissed to a later date.

The decision to reject the property was made because it required a public notice prior to reclassifying the land.

To close the public hearing, which lasted about 50 minutes, Slaughter and County Inspector Joel Hollowell gave closing remarks.

Before making a second motion for the vote, Supervisor Chad McLarty, a self-described “huge property rights guy,” said the ordinance will help address problems that he wishes could have been prevented in the past.

“The last six years that I’ve been on this board, I’ve had the opportunity to see some things that we had no way of addressing. I’ve seen people leave this boardroom very upset, and I think their property got devalued in certain ways,” McLarty said. “So, I never thought I’d be here today, fixing to make a second on a vote for a zoning ordinance in Lafayette County. But here we are in 2018, this county is growing, and we need this. It’s time.”

After the supervisors’ unanimous vote, the boardroom audience applauded.