Potential connection between South Grove, Windsor Falls receives pushback from neighboring communities

Published 6:09 pm Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Over 40 Oxford residents appeared at City Hall this week to protest a connection between a residential development and the existing neighborhood.

The Oxford Planning Commission discussed whether to approve preliminary and final plat approval and site plan approval for South Grove Subdivision, a mixed-type residential development, consisting of 81 detached units, and 112 attached units (duplex, triplex and quadplex).

South Grove development, located on the east side of South Lamar Boulevard near the Pea Ridge Road intersection, will consist of all three-bedroom units. The development requires a minimum of 336 parking spaces and the proposal includes 385 parking spaces, well within the 25% maximum parking allowance.

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Engineering proposed access to the development through three points: one on South Lamar Boulevard or two on Country Road 332. Developers would make a connection in the Windsor Falls Subdivision through an existing dead-end street, Windsor Drive South, between houses #71 and #72.

“Staff is aware of requests from Windsor Falls that this connection not be made,” said Ben Requet, Director of Planning on South Grove Subdivision’s housing design. “It’s still recommended that the right of way be dedicated.”

Dedicating a right of way would ensure that a connection could be made at one of those two points in the future and the connection would provide subdivision residents access to Highway 7 through Windsor Falls or County Road 322.

Due to the number of units, developers were required to complete a traffic impact study to ascertain effects on the surrounding area. The study was conducted in February while schools were in session.

“The traffic impact study reported that the development would result in 121 additional trips in the AM peak hour and 151 additional trips in the PM peak hour,” Requet said.

Additionally, the level of service at the intersections of South Lamar (Windsor Falls Boulevard, Center Ridge Road, Veterans Drive) would decrease from a B-rating to a C-rating, which is still acceptable, according to Requet. The level of service at the intersections of Center Ridge Road, Veterans Road and Highway 7 is an F-rating and will remain unchanged by the development.

“This increase is more likely attributed to the traffic on Highway 7 than this development,” said Requet.

Read the South Grove Traffic Impact Study

But homeowners in neighboring communities attended the meeting to ensure the connection would not move forward. Residents’ primary issue with the potential connection is that it would exacerbate traffic issues and accidents in the area.

Former Ward III Aldermen Janice Antonow took to the podium to dispute the traffic impact study. Antonow has lived in the Ridgeland Heights Subdivision, located directly across from Windsor Falls, for 42 years.

Antonow commends engineers for completing the study during peak traffic hours and for considering the intersections, turns and access points but it lacked information on Windsor Falls Boulevard, Whippoorwill Lane, Mockingbird Lane and the driveway of the 19 homes that front South Lamar Boulevard.

“They didn’t consider that most people would have to pull out of their driveways or back out of their driveways,” she said. “They did not consider that there’s going be changes in the traffic on South Lamar that have nothing to do with this development. For example, the school schedule is changing. The elementary schools are going to start 20 minutes earlier. So the school traffic is going to merge with the University traffic.”

South Lamar has other peaks in traffic that are problematic, said Antonow. The road is the main route for city and county garbage trucks and, twice a day, the trucks are headed for the landfill via Pea Ridge Road.

Antonow stated that the developers’ traffic study conflicted with the city and county’s traffic study on South Lamar conducted in 2017.

“What the analysis shows is that South Lamar from Highway 6 to Pea Ridge Road had a level of service of D which means it was approaching unstable flow and high-density traffic with a capacity of 62-75%,” she said. “… Further figures show that in 2035 level of service is an F[-rating] which means by 2035 with no improvements to the road and no extra development. So there’s a bit of discrepancy with these plans.”

Freeland Martz, PLLC’s Hale Freeland, representative of a few Windsor Falls residents, proposed a green space instead of a road between Windsor Falls Subdivision and the soon-to-be South Grove Subdivision on the residents’ behalf.

“When Windsor Falls was planned, it was planned as a single-family subdivision,” said Freeland. “I have many professors here who are here and [are] raising children here and it’s important for them to have a space to raise their children.”

Freeland said South Grove will introduce a new demographic that doesn’t match with Windsor Falls and increase the level of traffic in the area.

“I don’t have any problems with the students but neighborhoods where families are and with students don’t mix well,” he said. “When you have condos and duplexes and triplexes and you have increased traffic, you’re changing the character of those neighborhoods.”

Commissioner Judy Riddell addressed the public concerns on traffic, saying it is an issue but not something the commission could fix with this particular case.

“Obviously there’s a lot of traffic problems on South Lamar — nobody is going to dispute that,” said Riddell. “We can’t fix those tonight… What we are here to decide is this particular case and as far as density and the traffic on South Lamar, it is zoned what it is zoned and we’re not undoing that tonight.”

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the preliminary and final plat approval and site plan approval for the South Grove Subdivision contingent on the Mayor and Board of Aldermen approval, approval from City Staff for a Special Use permit, approval from City Engineer on comments related to the proposed site plan, easements in favor of the city’s new water mains, approval of storm water management plans and giving City Staff full authority on the sewer line location and ownership.

The commission removed stipulations requiring developers and engineers to show plans for a connection between South Grove and Windsor Falls or plans for a right of way.