County zoning updates and an annexation proposal by the city of Oxford could bring big changes to the surrounding area in an effort to catch up with the city’s recent growth.
The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors passed a new zoning ordinance that was adopted Jan. 18, and the Oxford Board of Aldermen is considering an annexation plan that would expand the city’s reach by about 12 square miles.
The University of Mississippi likely will not be directly affected by any of the changes, but zoning administrator Joel Hollowell said Ole Miss students may benefit indirectly.
“Pairing compatible uses, requiring property upkeep and helping control the exponential growth that has created a strain on our existing infrastructure, the zoning ordinance will benefit everyone who lives, works or attends school in Lafayette County,” Hollowell said.
The main portion of the Ole Miss campus currently sits within the city limits, but not all of it.
If annexation passes, the space marked “University of Mississippi property” in Area 5 of the annexation map will be a part of the city rather than the county, where it currently sits. That portion of land is marked as “Special Use District” on the new county zoning ordinance map.
“Colleges, universities and other types of training facilities and their associated uses are permitted in the Special Use District,” Hollowell said. “Generally speaking, public uses such as educational institutions fit in most zoning districts. Therefore, most uses associated with the university should not be impacted by the zoning ordinance.”
The area in question holds the land where Whirlpool Trails hiking and biking trails are located across Highway 6 from campus, but Provost Noel Wilkin said there are currently no plans to develop that space.
The former Whirlpool plant near that area is under construction “to become a transportation hub and large-court recreational facility,” according to Wilkin, and the university already has a smaller lot nearby that is currently used for excess residential student parking.
The Board of Aldermen’s proposed annexation locations are five areas branching off of the sides of Oxford as it currently exists.
“One of the main reasons we’re doing the annexation is that before annexation, we were the densest city in the state,” Alderman-At-Large John Morgan said.
However, he said much of the infrastructure built outside of the city limits is not to the specifications of city ordinances, creating a lot of work following annexation, and that has held up the process a bit.
“We’re trying to take in a lot of undeveloped land so when it does become developed, it can be developed in the right way,” Morgan said. “With the right roads, the right density and to all the city’s specifications and in line with the city ordinances.”
In addition to the City of Oxford introducing the idea of annexing land from the county, Lafayette County recently passed a new zoning ordinance.
Lafayette County building official and Hollowell said that before the ordinance passed, the only governing document related to land development was the Lafayette County Subdivision Regulations.
He said those regulations only governed subdivisions and site plans for commercial structures.
“This left Lafayette County wide open for any type of land use as long as a developer could meet the requirements of the subdivision regulations,” Hollowell said. “In particular, a commercial use could be placed in a residential area as long as the limited requirements of the subdivision regulations were met.”
With the new zoning ordinance, the county now has the ability to prevent nonconforming uses for each zone, whether agricultural, residential or commercial.