April 26, 2019

Oxford Comprehensive Plan Considers Waiting for 2020 Census Data to Update

Oxford’s 10-year Comprehensive Plan is now 12 years old. It may be time for some revisions.

During the summer of 2007, Oxford began the process of refurbishing the community’s Comprehensive Plan. The new plan, Oxford Tomorrow: Community Update, was intended to develop a clear vision for the future by assessing the needs and aspirations of the community.

In the 2008 Comprehensive Plan, some of the key points included preserving Oxford’s small town character, enhancing the Mile Square to preserve the character of Oxford, conserving agricultural lands and natural areas, providing a variety of transportation options, and creating new jobs and services in the community. According to the document, “The plan includes nine goals, 57 objectives and 250 strategies.”

If the plan is revised, Community Development Director, Sam Perry, has specific changes he would like to incorporate.

“I would include a housing chapter, as well as revisions to the land use and economic development chapters,” Perry said. “We haven’t made much progress in the area of understanding how to balance student housing development and affordable housing development.”

Perry also noted that the existing plan does not include utilities or parks, two subjects that have connections to the goals of livability and sustainability.

Creating a budget will be the first step in constructing a new comprehensive plan. Due to the use of consulting services, the 2008 plan cost the city $95,500 and took over a year to draft.

“This is something the city would need to look into and see if that is something, they would want to spend the money on,” Perry said.

Although the plan was written to assist the community for a duration of 10 years, there is no legal requirement that it must be updated every 10 years. Perry believes that it would be pointless to develop a new plan unless the city’s leadership is in agreement on the reasons why the current one should be updated.

Perry also considers the idea of Oxford creating a more digital plan.

“I think if it were web based it would allow for better input amongst Oxford residents, but it would also be something people could comment on and contribute to,” Perry said.

Oxford resident Lexi Marsh, who recently spoke out against a proposed zoning change for a plot of land near her home in south Oxford, said a new plan is desperately needed for Oxford’s future.

“The current plan doesn’t represent the town in 2019,” Marsh said. “When the plan was first written it was fine, but there is a reason why every 10-12 years we need to review and write a new comprehensive plan.”

Marsh added that she believes the new plan should revise and change the R-2A zoning requirements, which allows for a range of apartment and duplex development.

“This is an issue we have right now,” Marsh said. “There is not enough legally binding or detailed information that makes developers adhere to previous agreements with the town.”

Living in Oxford for 10 years, Marsch has observed numerous changes the city has encountered. She commented on the increase of student apartments on High Street, as well as fewer families living in the city. The changes in housing patterns has resulted in fewer options for single families.

Although Oxford’s demographics have changed over the past 12 years, those exact changes will not be known until the 2020 federal census data is released. Perry comments that revising the plan might need to wait until this data is released at the end of 2020.

“If we start the plan before we receive this data, it would be more of a guess,” Perry said.

City council member, David Prytherch, discussed how the city and council are hoping to create a more strategic planning model compared to the one developed 12 years ago.

“The city set a list of strategic goals at a retreat earlier this year, the first of which was sustainability, how Oxford maintains itself as a livable, prosperous, affordable and environmentally aware community,” Prytherch said. “Those things don’t just happen, they require a plan. For these reasons, I hope we can budget for and complete a comprehensive plan revision in 2020.”