Background and Recommendations

In September 1999, the Board of Commissioners directed staff to begin the process of developing small area plans (SAP), as identified in the County's Strategic Growth Plan. A citizen-based committee for the St. Stephens/Oxford area, consisting of ten members, was appointed by the Board of Commissioners in late 2000. The committee met monthly to develop a plan which addresses the following seven issues: 1) land use and community design; 2) transportation; 3) community facilities and public services; 4) housing; 5) economic development; 6) natural resources; and 7) cultural resources.

In order to obtain input on these issues, the committee sponsored a community meeting in May 2001. Seventeen (17) citizens attended this meeting held at the Riverbend Middle School. The main issues presented at this meeting were preservation of rural character/farmland, lack of public water/sewer, rapid housing on small lots and lack of long-range planning. Information received at this meeting was used by the committee in the development of the plan's guiding principles and recommendations.

Following are highlights of the Plan's recommendations as formulated by the committee:

  • Extensive residential rezonings - the plan recommends that approximately 64% of the study area be rezoned. Approximately 63% is proposed to be rezoned to R-1 which does not allow any type of manufactured home and 1% to be rezoned to R-3 which allows for doublewide manufactured homes and stick-build homes. In defining the area proposed to be rezoned, the committee chose existing stick-built subdivisions, a buffer around the existing subdivisions, scenic corridors and a corridor along Hwy. 16.
  • Higher residential density is proposed in the western half of the area. This would allow 2 units/acre without public water or 3 units/acre with public water. A minimum of 5% open space would be provided for high-density developments.
  • Medium residential density is proposed in the south-central portion of the area. The density allowed would be .75-acre lot sizes with a minimum of 7.5% open space provided.
  • Low residential density is proposed in the eastern portion of the area. This would allow one unit per acre with a 10% open space requirement.
  • A Catawba River corridor is established with residential densities of one unit per acre and a minimum 100-foot lot width (compared to 75 foot currently). Cluster developments would be allowed but lots could be no smaller than .75 acre.
  • Sidewalks, or a comparable pedestrian/bicycle path, in new high-density developments are recommended where there are at least 25 lots of ½-acre in size or smaller. Sidewalks would only be located on one side of the road.
  • Recommendations for commercial/mixed uses include a commercial corridor along Springs Road. A mixed-use area is designated south of St. John's Church Road and South of Rock Barn Road. Smaller rural commercial nodes are designated at the intersections of Hwy. 16 with St. Peters Church Road, Springs Road and Swinging Bridge Road. Commercial nodes are also recommended at the intersections of Lee Cline Road/Houston Mill Road and Oxford School Road/Riverbend Road. A community commercial center is designated at the I-40 interchange of Oxford School Road.
  • Industrial uses are recommended south of Oxford School Road at I-40 and south of I-40 between Rock Barn Road and North Oxford Street.
  • Study the possibility of a multi-jurisdictional greenway along the Catawba River beginning at River Bend Park and extending downstream.

Note: See the recommendations, in their entirety, here.

The committee sponsored a community meeting on the draft of its plan in September 2002. Approximately 40 citizens attended this meeting. Overall, those who attended the meeting supported the recommendations of the committee. The committee reviewed comments received from this meeting and subsequently recommended the plan at its October 30, 2002 meeting.

In February 2003, the committee Chair met with Board of Commissioner members in one-on-one meetings to review the plan recommendations in detail. Two minor amendments were discussed at these meetings. These included revising the medium density district on the north/east side of Oxford School Road to take advantage of the existing waterline. The other change was to allow a "comparable pedestrian/bicycle path" as an option to sidewalks in high-density subdivisions. The committee then met jointly with the Planning Board on March 17, 2003 to review the plan in detail and discuss these amendments. The committee and Planning Board both agreed to these two changes.

The Planning Board conducted a public hearing on the plan at its March 31, 2003 meeting. Five citizens spoke at this hearing. The Board made one amendment to the plan by continuing the Scenic Byway designation along Oxford School Road. With this change, the Planning Board made its recommendation to the Board of Commissioners.

The Board of Commissioners will conduct its public hearing and accept your comments on the plan at its meeting on Monday, April 21, 2003 beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Robert E. Hibbitts Courtroom of the 1924 Courthouse in Newton. It is anticipated that they will receive your comments, decide if any changes should be made to the plan and consider adoption of the plan.

Should you have any questions regarding the St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Plan, you may contact Mary K. George, County Planner, at (828) 465-8264.