Controversy surrounds Oxford Commons development proposal

Published 12:10 pm Tuesday, October 10, 2023

On Oct. 9, the Oxford Planning Commission rejected proposed modifications to the Oxford Commons Planned Unit Development (PUD) and associated road connections. The decision came after consideration of the proposal’s potential impact on the community.

Denial of Modifications

At the heart of the decision is the denial of proposed modifications to the Oxford Commons PUD, including changes to the layout and connectivity of the community. Among the proposed modifications was the potential connection of a residential area lying to the east of Oxford High School (Tract N) to Campground Road (CR 217), aimed at enhancing road access within the community.

In the application for the modifications, the property development company Blackburn Communities, LLC noted “that the growth along Campground Road has also created the need for more connectivity to Oxford and that this connection provides a convenient option for the general public in that area to access Oxford Commons, associated schools, restaurants, entertainment, hotels, professional offices, etc.”

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The Oxford Planning Department also stated that “existing and new residential development exist on Campground Road and wrecks occur occasionally at the intersection of Campground Road and Highway 6. Nearly all of the homes located along this road are located in the city of Oxford School District boundary and this new connection will result in an additional and safe transportation option for those residents. Staff is supportive of this element of the request.”

A representative speaking on behalf of Blackburn Communities at the Oxford Planning Commission meeting stated that the applicants were asking for the request to be approved as it stood – “an all or nothing vote.”

Lakewood Hills Drive’s Status

The denial also raises questions about the status of Lakewood Hills Drive, a private road within the Oxford Commons community (Tract G). The proposed modifications, if approved, could have influenced the road’s future, including whether it remains private or becomes a public road. It is currently listed as a private road, meaning the responsibility for the costs of maintaining it and determining access falls outside the city’s purview.

The new modification sought to maintain that private status, as the City Planning Department noted: “A portion of the roadway within Tract G has been removed. This section of the roadway is currently private and will remain private.”

Community Perspectives

The planning commission’s decision has elicited mixed reactions from community members. Those who preferred to maintain the status quo and keep Lakewood Hills Drive unchanged may see the denial as a positive outcome. In contrast, the decision may disappoint individuals advocating for increased connectivity and road improvements. Around 25 residents attended the meeting and departed immediately following the vote.

One resident of Lakewood Hills Drive opposed the requested changes, stating that he did not believe they met the necessary requirements to elicit such changes and would only worsen the traffic conditions in that area. He added that “accidents on Highway 6 at Campground are subjective.”

Meanwhile, a resident of Deer Run, a subdivision just off of Campground Road, stated that she was “not necessarily opposed” to the request, but felt that “something about traffic on Campground Road needed to be done” if any additional connectivity from other areas of Oxford was considered, as “Campground Road is very narrow and curvy, with no road shoulders and houses close to the road.”

Future Considerations for Oxford Commons

While the proposed modifications have been denied in their current form, this may not mark the end of the road for potential changes within the Oxford Commons community. The developer may choose to revise and resubmit the proposal to address concerns raised by residents.

It’s essential to note that any significant changes to the community’s development plan, including road connections and modifications, typically require city approval. While the planning commission’s decision is a significant step, the final decision still rests with the mayor and board of aldermen.

As the Oxford Commons community continues to evolve, discussions about road connectivity, private versus public roads, and community development will likely remain central to the planning process, with community members and city officials working together to shape the future of the area.