Oxford settles lawsuit over housing development

A controversial student housing subdivision stands to become a reality now that Oxford council has settled a lawsuit filed by the developer.

The redesigned development, to be located off of Southpointe Parkway, would consist of approximately 194 units, with a maximum of 668 beds, according to Trinitas Development. Some residents objected to the project, arguing that it goes against the city’s comprehensive plan, but city officials said that plan is only a guide.

Planning commission approved this latest version by a vote of 4-2 at its Sept. 8 meeting, after a lengthy discussion. That approval was contingent on several conditions, including using street names similar to those in the Mile Square, working with BCRTA and others to provide year-round public transit, reducing the number of parking spaces, and to design end units to include windows on all sides of the buildings facing the streets.

The development, in the works for more than a year, has prompted hours of sometimes contentious debate. At one meeting, Vice Mayor Kate Rousmaniere said the developers’ plans to push the project through sounded like “a threat.” After city council rejected the project in May, Trinitas filed a lawsuit against the city. Oxford and Trinitas held two mediation sessions and ironed out the agreement, which includes the revised project, according to city documentation.

“I guess what I’m wondering is why there’s a clear path for corporation to just come in and pin down the city and force the development,” Kyle Hayden, a Miami University student, said. “It doesn’t seem right to me. City council has an obligation to the people of Oxford, not corporations.”

Resident Emily Murphree criticized the process, saying, “I really resent that whole approach (of the lawsuit) … I would ask you to think about what the citizens of Oxford want for the community. I think we all want this to be a vibrant place for everybody. I really urge you to look at what the planning commission said before it had a gun to its head.”

City Manager Doug Elliott said there will be disagreement about whether the Fields at Southpointe meets with the comprehensive plan, but that document has no legal binding.

“The comprehensive plan is a guiding document, not a controlling document or a detailed list of legal specifications, such as the zoning map, or subdivision plan,” he said, adding the updated project does meet the city’s zoning requirements.

”One could point out it meets our objectives of creating new residential areas with traditional neighborhood qualities … that expands housing options, improves rental housing, and provides diverse housing opportunities,” Elliott said.

Council approved the settlement of the lawsuit with a resolution, while the actual development approval will get a second reading at council’s Oct. 6 meeting.

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