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Proposed change to Land Use Code could be incentive for workforce housing

A proposed update to the newly adopted Land Development Code could pave the way for more workforce housing availability in Oxford.

On Monday, the Oxford Planning Commission voted to recommend approval to the Oxford Board of Aldermen a variety of changes to the Land Development Code; some were to merely correct typos, update antiquated language and make modifications.

The new Land Development Code was adopted in November 2017.

One of the approved changes establishes a new special exception provision that will allow additional bedrooms per acre, not to exceed 65, but no additional density.

It will require a finding that “special conditions and circumstances exist which are peculiar to the land, structure, or buildings involved and which are not applicable to other lands, structures, or buildings in the same district.”

The “residential bonus” will be considered in mixed-use developments as a special use in Suburban Multi-Family districts and when located on the upper floors of mixed-use buildings in Traditional Neighborhood Districts, Suburban Center and Suburban Corridor districts by special exception.

A finding must be made that special conditions and circumstances exist which are peculiar to the land, structure, or buildings involved and which are not applicable to other lands, structures, or buildings in the same district.

Senior Planner Ben Requet said planning staff has considered requiring a percentage of the added dwelling units to be reserved for affordable, or workforce housing, but there was not enough time to establish the criteria and standards for governing such units before presenting the proposed change to the code.

However, Requet said the staff will be returning to the broader issue of affordable housing in the next several months through the new Housing Commission that is currently being created.

“This will be at the top of their list to review,” Requet said.

In the meantime, as this would be a special exception use, should the city be close to establishing affordable housing standards when a project requesting this bonus is under review, such a requirement could be considered as a condition of approval.

Other modifications to the Land Development Code approved by the Planning Commission Monday included:

• Changing the Wireless Communications Facilities section to accommodate new “microcell” and “small cell” technology. Requet said telecommunication companies are starting to use smaller towers as infill to existing larger towers to help cell phone coverage. The smaller towers are about 30 feet high or less. The modification of the code creates a process for approval of the placement of the new technology, whether it’s on existing structures like utility poles or water towers, or if a new structure needs to be constructed.

• Changes to the Food Truck Ordinance that include requiring all applicants to operate under a central kitchen located within Lafayette County that is approved by the Mississippi Department of Health for food service. A mobile food vehicle may be certified by the Mississippi Department of Health as a central kitchen; changing the hours of operation to Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m and on Sunday between 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The new hours will coincide with the city’s extended alcohol distribution hours. Allowing one temporary sign that does not exceed 3-foot by 5-foot that must be taken up at the end of each day.

The proposed changes will be reviewed and voted on by the Oxford Board of Aldermen at an upcoming meeting.