The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing this morning regarding a new Comprehensive Plan for the county.
Jeff Busby, president of the Board of Supervisors, said it’s time to update the 2008 comprehensive plan currently in place as projected population growth by the year 2020 was surpassed about three years ago.
“They didn’t have the growth that we have today,” Busby said. “This plan is important, especially in the steps of going forward and talking about zoning. So, it’s important that we get this comprehensive plan right and what the people of this community want.”
The plan focuses largely on goals and objectives to enhance the visual perception and image of the county, future land use development, transportation and public safety upgrades.
Slaughter and Associates, an urban planning firm based in Oxford, has been working with Lafayette County and City of Oxford officials since February of last year to create the plan.
Mike Slaughter, owner of Slaughter and Associates, said several officials have gone to great lengths during the process with the mutual goal of making this “the community’s plan.”
“It’s not the consultant’s plan. It’s not just the Board of Supervisors’ plan. They had their input,” Slaughter said. “This is the community’s plan, and that’s the reason we’re having this public hearing – to gain additional input to make sure this is the community’s plan. That’s the only way it will be implemented.”
After about 37 public meetings across Lafayette County, including the Taylor, College Hill, Philadelphia, Yocona and Harmontown communities, Supervisor Kevin Frye said he expects the board to be prepared to adopt the comprehensive plan in the next board meeting, which is scheduled for Nov. 6.
“Members of the public came and told us what they wanted in the county. We set goals based on those things,” Frye said.
Lafayette County Comprehensive Plan Key Points
- Visual Perception and Image
To improve the county’s image, objectives have been set to keep the roads clean and well-maintained; to preserve rural resources (scenic views, rivers, streams, wetlands, tree canopy and farmland) in preparing for anticipated growth and development; and to create and promote a better community image through adoption of proper ordinances and regulations, such as adopting a zoning ordinance to help manage growth in urbanizing areas and rural areas alike.
- Land Use Development
According to page 13 of the plan, “The rural character of Lafayette County is becoming increasingly lost as unchecked development occurs immediately outside the Oxford city limits.” Largely because of the rapid population growth across the county, there is a shortage of housing which could be considered affordable. Objectives within this section include encouraging affordable housing opportunities that will also address the county’s high poverty rate; protecting property values for future growth and assessed values for tax revenue; encouraging the construction of low-energy building as well as sustainability practices and the sourcing of local ingredients for restaurants and school meals; and promoting commercial and industrial growth in the county, which would include affordable, high-speed internet access in speeds of 1 gigabit or more.
Part of the transportation plan is to maintain county roads to the highest standard possible, which includes eliminating all public gravel roads within 20 years. Another transportation goal is to encourage alternative modes of transportation throughout the community, which would include objectives such as preparing a “bike lane” map and extending coverage area of OUT.
- Public Safety
As some of Lafayette County’s most pressing and common concerns regard public safety in remote areas, objectives have been set to increase the number of sheriff’s deputies, to build a new Sheriff’s Department building that would provide additional space, and to build a new fire station as well as promoting and encouraging volunteer firefighters.
During the hearing, Lafayette County resident and local forester Rickey Harwell expressed his concerns regarding the transportation segment of the plan.
“You want to make all the roads blacktop… I agree with that. But if you want to make them blacktop, they’ve got to be accessible to people who are going to use them,” Harwell said. “If you’ve got a new road, they won’t let them use the durn thing for log trucks. That’s not feasible for people that own property and grow timber.”
Harwell suggested paving the roads in a way that would allow for log trucks and other agricultural vehicles to travel the same routes.
Busby said the Board takes public input seriously and will take into consideration the concerns expressed today.
“We’ve tried to do that throughout this process,” Busby said. “We’ve gone extra steps this time to make the plan what the people of this community want. I feel good about it because it wasn’t [the five supervisors’] plan. It was the whole community’s.”
By Randall Haley, managing editor of HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.HERE!