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City of Oxford holding 'visioning meeting'
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City of Oxford residents are encouraged to attend a visioning meeting for the city's Comprehensive Plan Tuesday.

The meeting is one of several to be held over the course of several months as required by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs as the city goes through the process of revising its Comprehensive Plan, which will guide the city in managing growth over the next 20 years.

At an Oct. 18 public hearing on the Comprehensive Plan, residents were briefed by representatives from the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center
Planning Department.

 "We spent more time with Oxford than we have with any community looking at population projections," said Jim Moneyhun, a planning technician with Northeast Georgia RDC who was present at the meeting.

According to Moneyhun, the city's population has remained relatively stable throughout the past 20 years, experiencing some ups and downs but no where near the population growth as Covington and the rest of the county.

In contrast to the rest of the county, which is largely desirous of more commercial and industrial growth, many residents in Oxford have been adamant that they want the historical character of their town to remain the same - even though a recent community survey found 79 percent of employed residents have jobs outside the city limits.

According to a community assessment prepared by Northeast Georgia RDC, issues the city will have to address over the next 20 years include, an aging utility infrastructure, insufficient available space for parks and recreation facilities and an increasingly crowded Ga. Highway 81, which is the city's main thoroughfare.

Additionally the assessment states the city's aging population (the average age in Oxford not including students at the college is 43) will require specialized housing and services, which often include smaller, more accessible housing units and public transportation.

The largest employers in the city of Oxford remain Oxford College, Palmer Stone Elementary School and the city government.

The assessment encourages the development of a proposed Town Center project as a means of bringing further tax revenue to the city as well as providing local jobs for residents. The Town Center would be located along Emory Street/Ga. Highway 81 from Pierce Street to Clark Street and it would include mixed-use development with some green space.

During a community visioning exercise at the end of the meeting where attendants were asked to write down three broad phrases which they want to guide the city's comprehensive plan, responses included phrases such as "free from Highway 81 through traffic," "support the arts," "work where I live, live where I work," and "play, live, shop."

Tuesday's meeting will have additional visioning exercises where attendants will be asked to draw their own maps of what they want the future of Oxford to look like.

"A lot of what we do hinges on this," said Erik Oliver, special assistant to the dean of Oxford College and a member of the city's Tree Board.

Additional meeting dates are scheduled for Nov. 13, Nov. 29 (tentative) and Dec. 18. All community meetings will begin at 7 p.m. in the Community Room next to the Volunteer Fire Department on Ga. Highway 81.