The Oxford City Council and Planning Commission are finding out just how hard cooperation can be as they try to iron out details for the proposed development of Locust Street.
City Council recently sent the Planning Commission’s proposal for the area back with recommendations for revision.
According to John Harman, a member of both the Planning Commission and City Council, the Locust Street development project has been in the works for more than a year.
“We want to make Locust Street more pedestrian friendly,” Harman said. “We’re still (a society) reliant on automobiles, but we want to encourage walking and biking.”
Automobiles, specifically where to park them, are one of the major sticking points of the commission’s proposal. As it is written now, all new developments would only be allowed to have one row of parking in front of the store.
Harman said this might be a disincentive for businesses, as it may not be enough parking spaces.
“We don’t want to make the zoning so restrictive that it doesn’t foster development,” Harman said.
The other facets City Council asked the Planning Commission to change were a requirement that all buildings face the street and that there are only allowed to be two signs for the whole development.
City Council also asked the Planning Commission to include incentives to developers, such as tax breaks. As of now, there are not any incentives included in the plan.
Despite the slight disagreements between City Council and the Planning Commission, Harman is optimistic the two sides will compromise.
“These are fairly normal compromises that need to be made, and I’m confident we will be moving forward shortly,” Harman said.
Harman said the Planning Commission will go over City Council’s recommendations at their next meeting May 11. After that, it will go back to City Council’s meeting in June and work could begin as early as July.
The development of Locust Street is not expected to impact the businesses located on High Street because the Planning Commission is attempting to attract retail-type businesses.
The Planning Commission is currently in the midst of hiring a specialized marketing company to help them determine what type of retail the Oxford market could support.
“Because of the high student population, the average salaries of Oxford residents appear to be much lower than it actually is,” Harman said. “That fact somewhat dissuades companies such as Macy’s from developing here.”
Bringing in an outside marketing consultant could help to offset some of businesses’ fears.
Senior Ethan Davis agreed making Locust Street more pedestrian-friendly is a good idea. “Sidewalks on both sides of the street would be nice,” Davis said. “Oxford is a college town and if it’s easy to walk to a place, people would be more inclined to go.”
Davis also agreed more retail stores are needed.
“Right now, our selection is limited,” Davis said. “Wal-Mart’s out of the way and being able to buy basic goods would make life easier.”