Monday, March 1, 2004

Oxford student housing debated

Neighbors wary of complex for 1,500

By Jon Gambrell
Enquirer contributor

OXFORD - For Frank and Cheryl Lamb, it's happening again.

With an increasing number of Miami University students living off campus, the Lambs moved out along two-lane U.S 27 southeast of Oxford nearly 30 years ago.

But now, with plans to develop land across the street from their home into more housing for nearly 1,500 students, the Lambs are once again thinking about a move.

"If I can find a place, I'd sell," Frank Lamb said. "I've lived in Oxford for 65 years. I'd hate to be forced out."

The development, which is slated for 72 acres of former farmland, would have about 35 buildings ranging from townhouses, small apartment buildings and dormitory-style housing, according to Oxford planner Daniel Johnson.

The preliminary proposal, which passed Oxford's Planning Commission 4-1 after a contentious debate, will be on City Council's agenda Tuesday.

According to Johnson, the plan by GBBN Architects originally called for housing nearly 2,000 students, but zoning rules would not allow it.

"Most of the concerns voiced were about traffic safety and pedestrian access," he said. "People talked about the potential for this housing to turn into Section 8 (low-income) housing."

If council passes the measure, formal plans would be submitted to the planning commission and would have to run the gamut again.

Developers must meet a list of conditions written by the planning commission, including widening the narrow highway, having a bus service into campus and having a path off the road for students.

But along the already crowded road, the Lambs worry traffic might become even worse.

"When you see a kid come out and go down (U.S.) 27 on a skateboard, it doesn't look too bright," Frank Lamb said.

However, one of the Lambs' nearest neighbors is Indian Trace Apartments. The complex, which has 83 apartments, hasn't caused too many problems, the Lambs said.

But with the planned development holding roughly 370 units, the complex might tip the scales.

The city's comprehensive plan calls for more student housing to slow the change of Oxford homes into rental property. Many of Miami's 16,000 students live off campus and demand forced many families to move out of the city, or rent their former homes at lucrative rates. Nearly 65 percent of homes in Oxford are worth $100,000 to $200,000, according to Census data.

With more student housing, Johnson said the city's rental market could change.

"I wish they'd build family homes," Cheryl Lamb said. "Out here, we thought we were away from the students. They took everything (in town)... and pushed the families out."

If you go

What: Oxford City Council meeting

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Oxford Court House, 118 W. High St.

Web site:

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