As zoning disagreements continue between Oxford Commons land developers, the City of Oxford’s planning department decided to withdraw their request to modify the Oxford Commons Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning district.
“We realized it was a substantial philosophical disagreement [between developers] that could not be worked out,” City Planner Judy Daniel said in Monday’s Planning Commission meeting.
Before Oxford adopted a new Land Development Code and Zoning Map in November 2017, David Blackburn, Oxford Commons developer and president of Blackburn Group, asked planning department members to leave the Oxford Commons PUD plat map, which was most recently updated in 2015, as the governing document regarding allowed uses and densities in the Oxford Commons district.
But after hearing a request in December from Lance Forsdick, Oxford Commons developer and owner of Kenlan Development, the planning staff decided several changes needed to be made to the 2015 PUD plat to prevent future conflicts and recommended making some modifications.
In last month’s commission meeting, planning staff suggested either rezoning the entire PUD district – or at least the commercial portions – back to mixed-use development or modifying and updating the PUD’s regulatory structure to correct past mistakes and provide a better system for managing the properties at Oxford Commons.
“We felt we had made significant progress,” Daniel said during last night’s meeting.
However, both Forsdick’s request and the planning staff’s suggestions were met with opposition from Oxford Commons residents.
“[We] were disappointed to see the continuing level of opposition to even these modest proposals,” Daniel said, “particularly since most of the statements in the opposition letters reflected a rather high level of misinformation, not only about what was proposed but about what was already allowed in Oxford Commons.”
Daniel explained to the audience and commissioners last night what currently is allowed in the Oxford Commons development and what is restricted.
“Many seem to have the impression that high-rise buildings are not allowed in this development,” she said. “That is not true.”
Buildings of up to five stories and up to 3,000 feet east of Highway 7 are allowed in Oxford Commons. Daniel said several Oxford Commons residents also seem to think multi-family housing and rental housing isn’t allowed, but currently, there are no such restrictions in Oxford Commons.
“There is no law or anything in the Oxford Commons restrictions to prevent anyone from purchasing multiple units and then renting them to whomever they wish,” Daniel said. “Finally, many seem to have the impression that the current restrictions will protect them from excess commercial development. That is not true.”
In fact, Daniel said, some residents’ homes in Oxford Commons will eventually be directly by the delivery area of a shopping center.
“What will be allowed in Oxford Commons … is up to 1,285,000 square feet of commercial uses and an unlimited number of square feet for multi-family or townhouse residential uses,” Daniel said. “The many mistakes found will remain and will handicap this development over time.”
“And with no agreement in sight between the property owners, we would expect other issues to emerge,” Daniel added. “Given the level of misinformation rampant at Oxford Commons, and given the ongoing oppositions, and given the problems at Oxford Commons are between the developers who own or control property there, we request to withdraw the case.”
The case was withdrawn, and Brian Hyneman, chairman of the commission, said the commission would therefore not be taking the public’s comments on the case. Instead, they would focus on what was left on the agenda, which included Forsdick’s rezoning request.
“If that affects anyone in the crowd, you certainly may leave,” Hyneman said. “I find it unfortunate that an agreement was not met. My biggest problem with Oxford Commons is there was no governing authority and no real governing document, which kind of got us where we are today. And, it’s unfortunate.”
But the audience, composed of several Oxford Commons residents, silently waited to see if the commissioners would grant Forsdick his request to rezone about 6.5 acres of his property from commercial use to mixed use.
Daniel then told commissioners that the planning staff did not support the request.
“To take five lots out of one tract and two from another, leaving the residual portions in place, is not rational,” Daniel said.
Forsdick said that at the time of his request in December, he felt he had no other option but to rezone.
“I think the [planning] staff came up with a better proposal, frankly,” Forsdick said. “Am I in support of the rezoning? Yes, I am. However, I think their proposal is a better proposal than even the rezoning. I think [the proposal] not being heard tonight is an even better proposal.”
The commissioners made the motion to deny the request, and Daniel said the planning staff would pay more careful attention and better monitor the ultimate limit within each tract in Oxford Commons.
“We’ll accept any site plans that come in until there’s no development potential left because there’s no mechanism to say no,” Daniel said.
After the motion was made, Commissioner Duncan Gray wanted to express his gratitude to the planning staff for trying to resolve the conflict and had one last word of advice for the crowd.
“As I was looking at the audience and looking at the jaws drop as Ms. Daniel described what can and can not be done out at the Oxford Commons, I would implore everyone to do your due diligence and ask questions,” Gray said. “See what actually can occur in the property that you’re investing in. Part of the reason that we are in the situation that we’re in now is because we don’t always ask the pertinent questions.”
By Randall Haley, Editor-in-Chief of HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.HERE!