Oxford Comprehensive Plan ideas include focus on quality of life, bringing community together

OXFORD — Hundreds of yellow sticky notes were attached to nine workboards as the Oxford Tomorrow steering committee hosted a visioning workshop April 19, the second public meeting seeking ideas about the Comprehensive Plan update.

The room at Oxford Bible Fellowship was buzzing with voices as people made their way around the room discussing what the consultant MKSK planning/urban design/landscape architectural firm had put together from comments received at the first meeting in February. The firm is working with the city’s steering committee on efforts leading to the plan update, which is expected to see a first draft later this year leading to eventual approval by City Council.

Easels were set up with poster boards for each of the eight topic areas and participants were invited to write their ideas on sticky notes for review by the steering committee.

“This plan is worthless without your voice,” MKSK associate Kyle May told the audience in an introduction. “A comprehensive Plan will help the community meet expectations for the future. We’re trying to sustain a conversation. This will act as a blueprint for the kind of place the community wants.”

Work on the new plan – dubbed Oxford Tomorrow – started nearly a year ago with formation of a steering committee representing a wide array of community stakeholders. Their first meeting was held last May. While the first input session was done remotely online in February, this second in-person follow-up session was planned to review comments and ideas from the online one and seeking further public comment.

Sarah Lilly, another MKSK associate explained the work to that point had revealed eight major themes, which were being built into all of the individual subject areas.

Those major themes are:

· Focus on becoming a complete, multigenerational community.

· Encourage more restaurant, shopping, and entertainment options.

· Prioritize non-vehicular transportation access and connectivity.

· Maintain a high quality of life through continued investment in parks, recreation, and cultural amenities.

· Embrace ways to bring the community together.

· Spur housing options that are affordable for people at all incomes and life stages.

· Strengthen the local economy through economic development and diversification.

· Foster a strong relationship between Miami University and the greater community.

The plan is divided into sections and this revision is intended to be more inclusive than past plans addressing more topics. The topics presented Monday were slightly changed from those in the presentation in February.

Topic areas new to this version of the city’s Comprehensive Plan are looking at Community Well-Being and also Sustainability.

A random glance at a few of the sticky notes on the Community Well-Being board included a suggestion to improve access to transportation outside of Oxford, bring in mental health services and to look at senior housing in the now-vacant Oxford Health Care building on Fairfield Road.

A host of suggestions on the Sustainability board included hiring a full-time arborist and adding curbside compost pickup.

Those two new ones drew interest but all of the others did, as well. Those are Land Use and Development, Mobility, Housing, Economy, Culture and Recreation and Utilities.

A separate board was set up with a proposed draft of a city vision statement, which also drew interest and a flurry of comments. Suggestions of the idea that inclusion is valued was found on several as well as a caution to not use the words “college town” as a descriptor of the city because that would be a block to being a thriving year-around complete community.

City Community Development Director Sam Perry said the draft of the plan is expected in the late summer to mid-fall. There will be another public meeting to look at that document before it is finalized to be sent to Council. Perry said Monday’s meeting was intended as the final public input meeting prior to that step, anyone still wanting to contribute can e-mail ideas to city staff members, who will take them before the steering committee to see if the members favor including them.

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