The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors approved and released its new comprehensive plan earlier this week, outlining the county’s goals before its potential zoning changes.
Supervisors responded to questions from locals who were concerned about the vote’s process and about the time frame in which this plan was developed.
“We’ve had almost 40 meetings since last February,” said Kevin Frye, District One supervisor and chairman of the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee. “It’s good we’ve gotten to this point. But I would like to thank all the folks who were willing to serve on the committees, those who went to the public meetings around the county. It was a group effort and something we should be proud of.”
Cities and counties are required to craft a comprehensive plan outlining their goals prior to making changes to zoning. This plan will serve as a reference for the current and future supervisors over the next 20 years.
The plan is divided into different chapters: Lafayette County Profile, Goals and Objectives, Land Use, Transportation, Community Facilities, and Implantation and Plan Management. The plan addresses city growth, lack of affordable housing, infrastructure concerns and fire safety.
Providing housing for people who work in Lafayette County and struggle to afford housing in the county has become vital issue in both the city of Oxford and Lafayette County.
The plan’s attempt to address this housing shortage highlighted the weekend rental culture in Oxford.
“Rapidly growing enrollment at the university and an increase in the number of “game-day” condos and short-term rentals has exacerbated the problem. Oxford’s workforce—restaurant workers, emergency service workers, teachers, etc.—can hardly afford to live in the city in which they work,” states the plan.
Frye outlined a way the comprehensive plan can alleviate this issue.
“One of our goals in our comprehensive plan is to be a community for all people,” Frye said. “And what that means is that we would like to encourage affordable housing opportunities that will also address the county’s high poverty rate and housing cost burden and promote a variety of housing types that will attract a wide range of household incomes.”
Frye said the next step was to apply the plan’s recommendations to the housing problem.
“Now that we’ve set goals and, as a community, we need to address housing, the next step is to begin addressing it,” Frye said. “And we have done that. … The city and county announced that we have worked on a joint project and received funding from some tax increment financing for some affordable housing. That’s one example, an outcome, that really started in this comprehensive plan process.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate in Oxford is “39.6 percent, which is above the national average.” Poverty is one issue that will take time to solve.
The comprehensive plan outlined several key issues and solutions, provided critical research and laid out a vision to the public. The real work, however, comes in implementing the plan.
The board wasted no time in implementing portions with a water line debate that followed the passing of the plan. The debate was concerned a long-term or short-term vision for the future of the county, which ties in directly to the comprehensive plan.
Water lines determine the quality of water that is carried to different subdivisions in the county, which may include future affordable housing districts.
This sparked a debate between Frye and supervisor Chad McLarty, who have different views of the long-term vision.
“I think the requirements should solely be based on hydraulics,” McLarty said.
McLarty said he opposed a minimum requirement for how large the lines should be, because smaller lines could serve smaller districts that don’t need larger lines.
Frye said the county should focus on long-term goals and a requirement should be put in place because “we don’t know what can develop in the district” in the next 10 years.
“I think y’all should hold a public hearing on the matter,” Board President Jeff Busby said. “Y’all could do that at the next planning meeting and invite the public to settle the differences.”
The board is having disagreements on how to implement its plan, but with it, the supervisors hope to manage the growth of the fastest-growing town in Mississippi in an effective way.