2020 hindsight: A second look at the results of the Oxford plan

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

As Oxford begins an update of its 13-year-old “Vision 2020″ long-range plan, the Daily Journal takes a two-part look back at its results. This is the second retrospective.
Housing and Land Use
Vision 2020 urged affordable developments with smaller houses and lots and cutting bureaucratic construction costs, but those conflicted with priorities such as avoiding too much population density and more historical preservation and design oversight.
Vision 2020’s recommendation for annexation resulted in a 2006 expansion of Oxford’s population and its area by one-third each.
With a recommendation to develop the Square “as a public place for the full community,” city leaders are exploring ideas for a more pedestrian Square.
“The most positive things have been the university’s donation of faculty housing and the resulting neighborhood of low-income homeowners,” said Celeste Jordan, Vision 2020’s Housing chairman. “A very dedicated Habitat for Humanity chapter has built a lot of homes for deserving people.”
Transportation and utilities
Vision 2020 transportation successes have included the following:
* Gertrude Ford Boulevard, a new north-south artery;
* Miles of new bike paths, bike lanes and sidewalks;
* Roundabouts;
* Study and nearing action to manage downtown parking;
* Traffic-calming measures in high-density older neighborhoods;
* Oxford-University Transit, which now carries more than 50,000 riders some months.
Some transportation upgrades identified by Vision 2020 still await – the Jackson Avenue/Highway 6 intersection, a north-south link between Highway 6 and Heritage Drive and aesthetic problems along University Avenue and Jackson Avenue entrances to the city, among others.
Access to some areas in and near Oxford is still inconvenient.
“There has long been that idea of having the highway extend around parts of the city,” said Carol Dorsey, Vision 2020’s transportation chairman.
Government
Since Vision 2020, Oxford has implemented curbside recycling, added a fourth fire station and helped build a new animal shelter. Alcohol enforcement concerns led to mounted police patrols and use of surveillance cameras, among other measures.
Supervisors have only partially fulfilled Vision 2020’s call for meeting outside the workday, and a call for county, university and city entities to attend each other’s meetings is largely unfulfilled.
Oxford and Lafayette County have, however, worked cooperatively after storms, and warning systems from tornado sirens to FM- and phone-based alerts have been implemented.
While no long-range plan can anticipate every need, some Vision 2020 participants are pleased with many results and anticipate more progress from its successor.
“Some really good things came out of Vision 2020,” Jordan said. “It’s time to do it again.”
errol.castens@journalinc.com