Construction project debated


OXFORD – On July 18, Oxford’s Planning Commission recommended city council approve a preliminary plan for a new single-family housing development between Olde Farm Road and Country Club Drive.

After a lengthy discussion of a first reading of the plan in July, and a second on Aug. 3, the plan was approved.

The preliminary plan sought to build 50 single-family homes on 23 acres of land between Country Club and Olde Farm. These roads are a part of the Heritage Subdivision, which has five different development plans, all previously recorded. The plan for this subdivision has always been for it to loop around and be joined, but currently, as the development stopped after the initial phase, the neighborhoods are enclosed – creating only one entrance or exit, which is a safety concern.

This plan would continue to expand the Oxford community; however, residents of the existing neighborhoods had several complaints against the preliminary plan.

The main complaint was water drainage flooding which occurs in the backyards of properties on Country Club and Olde Farm. According to residents, the plan took into consideration an insignificant amount of wetlands. Residents were worried the construction would compound the flooding issue.

Increased traffic and a lack of sidewalks was another issue residents had with the plan. The area is a residential one with children’s safety to take into consideration and many were fearful it wasn’t being addressed.

A decrease in property value was also feared.

Another resident complaint was that this new development would “change the culture” of the neighborhood. It was feared the differences in lots sizes would make the neighborhoods seem not “cohesive.”

The existing houses on Country Club are nice and the lots sizes are large, Professor Douglas Brooks pointed out, as it is “an established neighborhood with lots of professional families in it.”

The single-family homes the development hopes to bring in will be a significant change from the current feel of the neighborhood, according to residents.

Professor Brooks was one of the main voices of concern regarding the plan. Following its approval he noted, “The people on Country Club have resigned themselves to the fact that the Red Brick development is going to proceed.”

He added, “We have now warned the developers about the water on the property. We think the development is too dense and the homes are a departure from the ones on Olde Farm Rd. I am confident that this phase of the development will be as far as the project goes.

“In my judgment, they will never get to Phase II, which will connect Olde Farm Road with Olde Farm through the woods at the end of Country Club. They are going to discover the volume of underground and surface water on that property will be prohibitive unless they raise the lots 1-2 feet.”

Community Development Director Jung-Han Chen stressed that for the city, the connection of the neighborhoods is extremely important.

While some of the residents don’t understand the emphasis on connectivity, Director Chen explained that it’s for safety reasons. At the current time, there is only one way to enter the neighborhood. If that road is closed, then there is no way for the residents to enter or exit in case of emergency, creating a safety hazard. Connecting the roads and making these independent neighborhoods into Heritage Subdivision will secure the safety of the residents, according to Chen.

Director Chen wanted it clear the city is taking the residents’ concerns seriously.

“Keep in mind, that because the neighbors have expressed concern about this and they have also made known their concern about to the council, everybody is going to be watching this project very closely,” he warned developers.

During the Aug. 3, meeting, council member Edna Southerland suggested completing a nature index on the land, in order to see what sort of vegetation is at risk of being removed. The residents were in favor of the index, but as it was a last minute suggestion, council couldn’t require the developers to include the index in the plan.

Chen pointed out, there is a balance which needs to be made between knowing nature needs removed for development, and preserving what the neighborhood has been like for the last 30 years.

However, the Environmental Commission is looking into the situation and it is a priority.

“I think the root is that they expressed their major concern on the storm water, and their fear is this project will exacerbate that problem,” Chen said of the residents’ concerns.

Chen, however, has a different view. “This project could very well reduce the storm water,” he said. He believes the intersections of the roads could work toward stopping the flooding.

Several members of council, and even Director Chen, viewed the change this project would bring as a good development. , “When you look at the home size available in Oxford, we don’t really have a whole lot,” Chen said.

“The development is meant to reach out to people who would be interested in this sort of house. They’re bringing attractive small houses to attract starter or retired couples. Diversity is not a bad thing to bring to Oxford; in fact, it is something Oxford has been trying to achieve. The Miami Community, as it expands and grows, will bring more faculty and staff and they need the home size they’re interested in.”

Mayor Kate Rousmaniere challenged the residents to answer why this change is being construed in a negative fashion. Shouldn’t change in the community be embraced, instead of feared?

“The City of Oxford needs to continue to grow and develop – we should not have to halt progress simply for nostalgia, nor due to a fear of change,” she said. “In a city like Oxford, one so dependent upon the University that came first, citizens have to be flexible as progress is required to stay relevant and functioning.”

By Kelsey Kimbler

For The Register-Herald

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