Oxford Tomorrow: City leaders work on new comprehensive plan to guide decisions

No one can predict the future, but Oxford leaders are hoping to create a picture of what the future will look like in this city as they embark on the public portion of efforts to build a new comprehensive plan.

Called “Oxford Tomorrow,” the plan is far more ambitious than those of the past as it seeks to build in many more elements than previous plans.

“In the past, the comprehensive plan was more of a land use document. Now, it is more of a town document that guides more of our decision-making,” Council Member David Prytherch said at the Feb. 1 council meeting while encouraging people to take part in the work.

That opportunity will come Wed., Feb. 16 in a virtual meeting at 6 p.m. The comprehensive plan steering committee had hoped to have an in-person session, but felt it would be safer to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols. They plan on holding another public meeting as a follow-up.

Plans call for the new comprehensive plan to cover planning and development; housing; transportation; utilities; economic development; safety, health and equity; town/gown relations; parks and recreation; and climate. The Oxford Tomorrow website adds more areas may be added following community feedback.

That website is oxfordtomorrow.org and includes information about previous steering committee meetings as well as an overview of what a comp plan seeks to accomplish.

The city has contracted with MKSK, a Columbus-based planning/urban design/landscape architecture firm, to lead the project.

City Community Development Director Sam Perry said Wednesday’s meeting will explain what a comprehensive plan is and is not. He encourages residents to take part regardless of how long they have been in town. He said they have created an introductory video to help explain the effort which is on the Oxford Tomorrow web site.

“We expect to get some people who have not heard of a comprehensive plan before. We will try to pull them into the tent and let them know we want their opinions and ideas,” Perry said. “Some people may not even be here when their ideas get implemented.”

It has been 13 years since the last comprehensive plan was written and the city has periodically tried to update previous plans.

The introduction on the Oxford Tomorrow website says, in part: “The new comprehensive plan will help shape future growth and change in the community for years to come. … Oxford is already a unique and exciting place to be. We welcome all residents to participate in the planning process and contribute ideas on how to make Oxford even better.”

Perry said some states require such a plan but Ohio does not. It is a valuable planning document, however, he said.

“We could just wait until it happens, or, we do not want to react. We want to see what we will be when we grow up,” Perry said. “We are a company town. We would not exist without Miami University. We are not sure how that will take shape, how we want to be in ten or 20 years. I’m excited about that. What if things change with Miami. Higher education is not as predictable as it used to be.”

Other important factors in planning for the future is the aging population. There are not as many births here as in the past. Perry said the Age Friendly Oxford effort is helping create awareness. The aging population is growing as is the college-age population as Miami increases its student numbers.

“The rest stayed flat,” he said. “That is the interesting thing about a college town.”

Another factor which is different for this version of the comprehensive plan is increased discussion of the economic impact of decisions.

“Land use planning is abstract. It’s what we would like to see but does not say if we allow this or that what is the impact on the city budget,” Perry said.

The oxfordtomorrow.org website explains the purpose of a comp plan this way:

“The City of Oxford has experienced continued population growth and development over the past several decades. The City’s 2020 Census population was 23,035, and this is projected to grow to approximately 25,000 by 2030. By planning strategically, the city can anticipate growth rather than react to it. Comprehensive planning allows Oxford to prioritize community needs, prudently allocate City resources, guide private development, and generate revenue to support services and infrastructure needs while fulfilling the community’s shared vision for the future.”

Perry said they are using the web site, social media, post cards available at multiple locations and any other means possible to let people know about the process, particularly this Wednesday’s meeting. There will also be opportunities for comment and ideas after the meeting.

“We will take hand-written comments or questions. They can be left in the city payment boxes where people pay their utility bills,” Perry said. “We figure most people, even those here only a short time, have opinions about something.”

In his comments about the Wednesday meeting, Prytherch encouraged people to take part.

“This is the first real open to the public input session. It’s really important for people who want to have a say in our community show up,” he said.

Anyone interested in joining in the virtual session can go to the web site and scroll down to the “Upcoming Events” list and then click on the registration button next to the entry for Wednesday’s meeting.

About the Author