Oxford plans to modify historic district boundaries, drafts map

Published 1:36 pm Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The city of Oxford is modifying the boundaries of the North Lamar, South Lamar, Jefferson Madison, and Depot local historic districts and has drafted an interactive map available to the public.

Oxford has reduced its five local historic districts down to three: North Lamar, Courthouse Square, and South Lamar. Portions of the Jefferson Madison district have been incorporated into the North Lamar district and portions of the Depot District have been incorporated into the South Lamar District.

The city of Oxford has partnered with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to re-survey Oxford’s local historic districts, with assistance from MDAH’s grants, to determine if the historical districts’ boundaries needed to be updated. 

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A consultant chosen through MDAH was hired to make necessary changes to local historical district boundaries and project consultants Judith Johnson & Associates recommended some changes as well.

“A big part of this effort was that we wanted to align our local district boundaries with our National Register district boundaries,” said Historic Preservationist Kate Kenwright. 

The difference between the local and National Register maps would cause confusion if a owner is registered in the North Lamar Historic District on one map, but registered in the Jefferson Madison District on the other.

According to Kenwright, the National Register does not provide the same protection the local districts do. The National Register is an honorary designation and the only time a review would commence is if a federal project took place in the local area.

In the re-survey, the consultant removed 62 properties on the advice of the consultant from all three districts in total with 642 properties remaining.

“Most of these were multi-unit type properties that were on the fringes of the district,” said Kenwright. “

When asked by Commissioner Joel Little if Kenwright opposed any changes, she said that she was in agreement with all the changes made. Kenwright said she liked having an independent consultant who had no attachments to the community and could make decisions objectively regarding boundaries and properties.

“It was solely based on the architectural integrity,” she said. Kenwright said the scale of the historic districts is protected under the Conservation Overlay Zoning area and is not much of a concern.

City staff has notified property owners through letters of the modifications to the district’s boundaries. The Historic Preservation office has not received responses objecting or supporting the changes.

The Oxford Historic Preservation Commission has debuted a draft of the historic district properties survey for public viewing. The map includes a description of the property from the survey including a photograph of the house, a description of its architecture and historical information.

“The changing of the boundaries and this map —it’s all sort of an effort to be more transparent with people who live in the historic district or own a historic property,” said Kenwright. “We have people calling all the time with questions and we want them to have access to information that we have access to.”

The Oxford Historic Preservation Commission has recommended approval of the modified boundaries to the Oxford Board of Alderman. The city board will vote on the approval in a private meeting.

For more information on the Oxford Historic Preservation Commission or the 2020 Historic Properties Survey map, visit www.oxfordms.net/historic-preservation-commission.