Sunday, January 23, 2022

New Ordinances for Oxford Rental Properties in Development Phase

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Oxford is growing by leaps and bounds, and arm-in-arm with that growth comes many opportunities and challenges of all types that the city and its residents must adapt to.
Ward 2 alderman Robyn Tannehill said the opportunities for business development, employment, new retail experiences and expanded regional and national recognition in Oxford today are unprecedented.

Robyn Tannehill
Robyn Tannehill

“But along with these opportunities, we are also all too aware of the challenges that come with this growth,” she said. “We live with, and try to adapt to, the pressures of increasing traffic congestion and the transition of many commercial and residential neighborhoods. Speaking only for myself, I believe that the management of the impact of neighborhood rental properties is critical at this point.”
Tannehill believes as we continue to grow both as a community and University, there are quality-of-life problems that we will encounter. As an alderman on the Board, she said a high priority had been placed on updating ordinances to address problems associated with a booming community and growing student population. She said plans and laws must also provide for reasonable and efficient enforcement.
“As a board, we do all agree that it is critical to protect the integrity of our single family neighborhoods,” she said. “We are striving to find ways to improve communication among neighborhoods, property owners and the city. All ordinance changes and additions that will be considered by the board will be done in an effort to keep our neighborhoods safe, clean and peaceful for everyone.”
Tannehill said the rapid expansion of rental properties into neighborhoods zoned for single families and long thought to be designed mainly for traditional owner-occupancy is the focus of intense current discussion by many residents and rental property owners.
“Obviously economic forces are driving the market for properties in these zoning districts,” she said, “particularly in close proximity to campus, to the point where the value for rental exceeds the value that is consistent with what many traditional owner-occupants are willing or able to pay. Investment opportunities exist and attract offers on residential properties to be converted to rental use.”
Tannehill believes that most college towns experience the same challenges that Oxford faces when student rental properties and single-family residences share neighborhoods.
“We fully understand and appreciate what the student population means to our community,” she said, “but we do find that students are sometimes not aware of the ordinances in place and tend to be residents who generate the most complaints about garbage, noise and unsightly yards. We have put a strong emphasis on Code Enforcement over the past 12 months and have hired a full-time Code Enforcement Officer. We are enforcing ordinances dealing with weeds and grass, garbage cans and parking on our narrow city streets.”
Tannehill said when the board began to analyze the ordinances on the books regarding neighborhood issues, it found that the ordinances were difficult to find since they were listed in numerous sections of our ordinances. With a goal of making the ordinances easier to find, easier to understand and reasonable to enforce, the Board began an ordinance review.
“The new ordinances being considered address weeds and grass, removal of garbage cans, curbside bins, outdoor furniture, litter/accumulation of garbage, parking of large equipment and recreational vehicles, parking on narrow city streets, parking in front yards, and noise, to list a few,” Tannehill said. “These are the issues we hear most often about from residents in our single-family neighborhoods.”
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Tannehill added there have been several challenges in enforcement of ordinances and the city’s new code enforcement officer has identified some of these challenges and the Board is trying to find ways to address them.
“One of the complaints that we receive on a regular basis concerns the number of unrelated occupants in single-family areas living in a home,” she said. “It is important to recognize that the limit of number of unrelated individuals living in a rental unit is an effort by the city to reduce the conflict among uses within a zone. That is the main purpose of zoning. These traditional residential neighborhoods were not designed with the infrastructure necessary to support this new use. We have found that this ordinance is difficult to enforce. We are working on ways to address this.”
In researching how other college communities are addressing this problem, Tannehill said they found that many use a rental registration process which would require single-family rental properties be registered with the city.
“The program’s goal is to identify rental property ownership with a local contact in case of health, safety or other code violations that might be detrimental to properties, tenants or surrounding neighborhoods,” she said. “The program helps the city keep property owners informed of new ordinances, laws or issues that might affect their properties. The effort is all about compliance and encouragement that all rental properties in residential zones be documented. This provides a foundation to better document cases where the rental use is inconsistent with the law. The intent, as I mentioned before, is to keep neighborhoods safe, clean and peaceful for everyone. Similar programs have been successfully implemented in university communities across the country. We are studying these programs to see how they could be helpful in our community.”
Tannehill believes that education of property owners, managers and renters will be a high priority as part of the solution and will be critical to the success of the city’s efforts.
“The need for enforcement of use (more than three unrelated occupants in single-family areas and more than four in residential areas other than single-family) and behaviors can be reduced if we can reach all parties to the rental contract regarding community expectations and the law,” she said. “The city is charged with considering the health, safety and welfare of the entire community. It is important for us to regularly review and update our ordinances to ensure that they maintain relevance to current and expected citizen concerns, technology and enforcement capabilities.”
Angela Rogalski is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at angela.rogalski@hottytoddy.com.

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