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Posted: December 20, 2011 6:24 p.m.

Oxford mulls subdivision ordinances

Builders in Oxford could be required to secure a bond guaranteeing that infrastructure will be completed in new subdivisions before construction can start.

The city also is considering changes meant to streamline final approval of plats, which are the official maps builders create and submit to building authorities that specify how a piece of land would be divided and developed.

The City Council is considering changes to its subdivision ordinance designed to prevent half-finished roads, curbing and drainage in partially-completed subdivisions where the builder has ceased construction.

"There have been so many examples of subdivisions where the developer did not complete the promised substructure and infrastructure," said City Councilor Hoyt Oliver, who is chairman of the planning and zoning committees. "In order to accept the final plat, we want a bond posted to ensure that it (infrastructure) will be completed before the city accepts it."

Under the current ordinance, a developer that goes bankrupt would stop construction while ownership, upkeep and further development would be up in the air until someone else buys the property. Once construction stops, roads could be left without the top layer of asphalt, meaning they are at least an inch lower than existing streets and other kinds of drainage could be left unfinished on roads with residents and completed houses.

The bond, or some other acceptable form of surety, would have to be obtained before building permits can be approved, according to the proposed changes.

If the developer goes out of business before infrastructure is complete, the "construction or installation may be completed using the proceeds from such surety deposits to pay for such work. Such work may be done under contract or by the City and shall be completed within six (6) months after the date that said construction or installation is determined to be" halted or abandoned, according to the proposal.

City Councilor Frank Davis, who is chairman of the streets committee, said he did not know of an issue in the city itself, but thought the change was a good preventative measure.

"I don't know that it has been an issue in the past, but we have seen subdivisions in the county where they started, and the streets were never finished," he said. "That's what we're trying to prevent."

Another change to the ordinance is an attempt to reduce the amount of time between City Council approval of a preliminary subdivision plat and the approval of building permits. Currently, the council must approve a preliminary and a final plat.

The proposal would allow the Planning Commission to approve the final plat, as long as there were no changes and the builder and plan follow all ordinance requirements. Councilors affirmed Monday that the City Council would still be the ultimate approving authority in charge of interpreting and enforcing the development ordinances.

Both changes were read for the first time Monday evening at a called meeting at City Hall. The changes will be read a second time at the council's meeting Jan. 9 and a vote likely will be taken.

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