Lafayette officials mull comprehensive plan

BY ERROL CASTENS
Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

OXFORD – Lafayette County officials face the Solomonic duty of balancing industrial, commercial, residential and agricultural interests in a county that combines both sophisticated subdivisions of million-dollar homes and rural reaches populated by Faulknerian folk.

Monday, Lafayette supervisors and planning commissioners met to talk about the county's draft comprehensive plan. Such a plan is required for several kinds of grant applications, but what concerns some leaders is that it is, as District 1 Supervisor Mike Pickens said, “just the first step toward zoning” or countywide building codes.

William Peacock of the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District tried to assure officials that the plan's adoption does not usher in any regulation.

“The plan helps to establish a planning process,” Peacock said. “It is a guide to future development.”

Planning Commission Chairman Dr. T. J. Ray agreed.

“Having the plan doesn't commit you to having any new regulations,” he said, adding that the county needs building codes.

“Some of the worst violations of building codes – if they existed – are in condos and apartments, where you see some outrageous things going on,” Ray said.

Planning Commissioner Mel Chrestman said he, like Pickens, was worried more regulation might follow.

“Land use' and zoning' are going to scare the hell out of a whole lot of Lafayette Countians,” he said.

District 2 Supervisor Johnny Morgan, who has not hidden his support of zoning, used a bit of irony to portray how people misunderstand zoning and other development regulations.

Tongue firmly in cheek, he said, “We're not trying to tell you what you can do with your property, but we're trying to regulate what your neighbor can do that could impact your property.”

Other county officials emphasized a plan's other values unrelated to zoning. A land use policy, for instance, can be attractive to industrial prospects, said Board of Supervisors Attorney David O'Donnell.

“What they're afraid of is that they're going to build a big 1,000-employee plant and then they'll get a bunch of noise suits,” he said, noting that the plan gives protection against such in areas identified as industrial.

Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the comprehensive plan before voting on the issue.