The Chicken and the Egg
My apologies for not writing the past couple months. My wife would say my excuse is a broken collar bone. But truthfully, as long as I have one good arm, I should do my duty and report on the state of our city. The kids are home from school, the sun is out, and the water is calling, and I admit I have been enjoying the summer (with the exception of the sore collar bone) and the days have slipped away…at least until the reality of a new school year appears with a stream of text messages from Oxford School District.
At the July 5, 2023 Oxford Board of Aldermen meeting an applicant appealed his denial by the Oxford Planning Commission to build residential units on the first floor of his proposed development at 3809 Old Sardis Road. The applicant’s land is zoned Traditional Neighborhood Business, which requires store fronts on the first floor. By a vote of 4-3, the Board of Aldermen granted the applicant’s request to build residential only units at 3809 Old Sardis Road, just before M-Trade Park.
Before the automobile, “mixed use” developments with storefronts on the first floor were common in cities and towns across America because people had to walk or travel by horse to go to the store. But with the advent of the car, that all changed and sprawling residential neighborhoods many miles from large box stores arose. In order to stop this kind of divided development, Oxford passed a new Land Development Code in 2017 as part of its Vision 2037 Plan. The many Dollar Generals in residential neighborhoods owe their existence in part to this emphasis on combined or “mixed” land use.
Leading up to the Aldermen’s vote, a kind of chicken and egg discussion took place. The minority of aldermen advocated leaving the land commercial because of its proximity to M-Trade Park and an already approved (but not yet built) food truck park, RV park, gas station, and large church. On the other side the majority agreed with the applicant that market forces call for more housing and not commercial space. Just down the road are condos similar to those proposed by the applicant. Oxford currently has a housing shortage but not a shortage of commercial space. These “growing pains” divide cities like few other issues. Both sides have valid points and at the end of the day geography may have played a role here. Closer in to the heart of Oxford, along the North Lamar corridor, on Jackson Avenue, or in The Commons, it is doubtful the exception for residential only along a major thoroughfare would have been granted.
Other issues tackled by the aldermen this summer included highlighting the most successful Juneteenth in Oxford history. Alderman Kesha Howell-Atkinson reported that the 57 vendors who participated were a record and attendance was estimated at 1500-2000 people. Bids for renovating the Oxford Enterprise Center into the future Oxford Police Station are ongoing, day care 3 acre minimum lot requirements were relaxed, and a metal building for Oxford utilities was approved. Pepsi won out over Coke at M-Trade Park, water meters at Punkin Water Association were brought into compliance with city standards (at Punkin Water’s expense), and the process to expand the city’s landfill was discussed.
Going forward, there are many issues that will continue to test the resolve of our city leaders. But what is clear is lively debate is alive and well at City Hall and this is what good government requires. Until next time friends, enjoy the waning (and hot) final days of summer and the relative calm before the arrival of Ole Miss students next month.