Oxford ponders new housing enforcement

OXFORD – University of Mississippi students bring to Oxford a lot that makes the town “a good place to live,” as its welcome signs tout.
Without them, restaurants and stores would be fewer and plainer. Athletics and the arts would be far more limited. Without the 14,000 students who attend Ole Miss, property values would fall and jobs would evaporate.
With youthful enthusiasm, though, often come youthful indiscretions. Complaints about litter, illegal parking and noise are frequent in areas where many students live.
Where several people and their vehicles crowd into one house, the problems can mushroom.

Clarifying the law
Already it’s illegal to park on the sidewalk or in front yards in Oxford. Streetside parking is limited in some areas.
It is also illegal for a landlord to allow more than three unrelated adults to live together in one house, but even the possibility of a hefty fine doesn’t keep it from happening.
Oxford aldermen will vote next week on additions to the existing ordinance. One element expected to be added will help eliminate the “just visiting” defense.
Four or more vehicles, each registered to people with different addresses or last names, parked overnight at a residence for the majority of nights in any 14-day period, will constitute prima facie evidence that the ordinance has been violated.
City Planner Tim Akers said the proposed ordinance addition also clarifies who is responsible for compliance – or the alternative, a $300-a-day fine. “Now it’s spelled out that it’s the owner and the occupants,” Akers said.

Where goes the neighborhood?
Alice Cooper, president of the Stone Glen Neighborhood Association, said students living in her neighborhood often park along the uncurbed streets or on their rentals’ lawns. Trash in their yards often goes ignored for days at a time, she said.
It can get worse.
“In one instance, one young man (used) his front yard as an ‘outhouse without walls’ during daylight hours,” she said.
Other neighborhoods have similar problems.
Angelo Mistilis, who lives on North 14th Street, said parties at student-occupied houses frequently mean the narrow streets just north of the Square are clogged with guests’ vehicles. He said police do little but talk to the violators.
“One time, let me see a ticket put on a car or a car pulled. It is never done,” he told the Board of Aldermen earlier this month. “If we had a fire, the truck would not get there. It couldn’t get there.”
Cooper said that while some students are very respectful of their neighbors, enough cause problems to cause concern over the future of the Stone Glen area.
Several homeowners are 65 or older, so most of their homes will presumably change hands within a decade or two. If recent trends continue, more and more of them will become rentals.
“Will retirees, families and professionals want to live in neighborhoods like ours?” she asked.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal