Oxford and Lafayette County brace for population increase

Posted on Jul 16 2013 - 1:54am by Michael Borkey

From Sunday alcohol sales to parking on the Square, Oxford residents don’t always agree on everything, but there is one thing about Oxford and Lafayette County that everyone can agree on: it is growing at a considerably fast rate.

“It absolutely has grown,” said Richard Lowe, manager of Rebel Bookstore. “You can tell since I got here (10 years ago) that there has been a rise in student and general population, definitely.”

According to numbers provided by the Oxford Chamber of Commerce, Lafayette County has grown from 40,007 residents in 2002, to 49,433 residents in 2012. Tim Akers, Oxford City Planner, said most of that population increase can be attributed to the annexation of new land for the city in 2007. That acquisition saw the population of Oxford alone add around an additional 5,000 residents.

The land annexation has proven to affect the population greatly. From the years 2002 to 2006, Lafayette County only saw a total population increase of 1,000 residents. However, from 2007 to 2012 after the additional land was acquired, the population growth percentage was 9.8 percent. That increase is good for an average population growth of 1,577 residents per year.

“(Business) seems to have an upward trend as the city grows,” Lowe said. “Our store is half text books and that’s from the student population, so we don’t have a ton of growth, but there is definitely a progression.”

According to the city’s land use plan, Oxford is projecting an increase of population from 21,173 in the year 2000, to approximately 44,012 in 2020.

That population increase might have an impact on local business.

“I don’t think it could hurt,” Lowe said. “From the business side, if we can keep up with the traffic flow and parking situations, I think it will be good for everybody.”

That projection shows an increase of over 50 percent. However, those projections are assuming that the trends of the city’s use of existing land, housing development growth and existing and future zoning.

Aside from the acquisition of land in 2007, there could be other reasons why population has increased in Oxford recently. According to livability.com, Oxford ranks as the nation’s second-best small town, citing its “Hollywood of the South” atmosphere and stating it is a place where “intellectual and leisure pursuits often intertwine.”

“It’s pretty cool that Oxford gets recognized like that,” said William Brand, a junior business major from Jackson. “I’ve always known it’s a great place; now it’s getting the exposure it deserves.”

On top of the positive press, the job trends in Oxford and Lafayette County are also appealing. The Chamber of Commerce is projecting a 19.9 percent increase in jobs over the next 10 years. This increase would be a great benefit to a city whose unemployment rate consistently stays below the national average.

The city has been able to withstand the increase so far, and according to city planner Tim Akers, Oxford is prepared to deal with continued growth.

“The city currently has the infrastructure capacity and/or financial ability to serve this growth,” Akers said. “(For the future) the city also has in place a comprehensive plan and related Land Development Code to manage future growth.”

One of the many strategies listed in the 75-page plan intended to help accommodate for Oxford’s projected population increase is to “Reinforce the Square.” This srategy is meant to improve the parking situation, promote a pedestrian design, promote a mix of residential and commercial use and promote historic conservation. Also mentioned are transportation improvements, parks and recreation facilities, fire and police protection, waste management, water systems and commercial and residential land use.

The strategies that have been put in place should improve the city of Oxford, as well as accommodate for the future influx of population. The full land use plan can be read at oxfordms.net/departments/planning.