By CARL SMITH
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors tabled a contract Monday to task Oxford-based urban planning firm Slaughter and Associates with developing a comprehensive plan for the county.
The firm previously presented a $30,000 to $35,000 contract for such a planning effort to supervisors dated Oct. 1. Under its provisions, Slaughter and Associates would have developed “a document that guides future growth and development” that outlined key aspect of said growth: existing demographics; community facilities; existing and future-use plans; transportation; and the county’s implementation of goals and objectives for development.
The contract did not state a completion date but said the firm would perform services “in a diligent and competent manner.” It is estimated Slaughter and Associates could complete such a plan in six to nine months.
It is unknown if the board will take the matter up in its recess meeting later this month. Calls to Board President Orlando Trainer went unreturned as of press time.
A comprehensive plan could include land-use provisions depending on the will of the board. District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery said he has issues with any such potential provisions dictating what landowners can or cannot do with their own property. Montgomery said it is the role of the government to create a good environment for business and development but not to do so in a forceful manner.
“When you start talking about somebody’s land and us, as a governing body, having the authority to tell what someone can and cannot do, I just don’t agree with that. I feel like we’d be overstepping our authority,” he said.
While the county does need a strategy for future developments in outlying and unincorporated areas, Montgomery stressed the need to do so with common sense instead of strict regulations.
“All (a foundation built on strict land-use codes) would have to have is one board saying you have to do this area as industrial or this as another type,” he said. “This is chess, not checkers. Regulations like that could be three moves away, but this is move No. 1 that could set into motion an uncertain future. This is one step forward in a manner I do not think it should be.
“Do we need a strategy? We sure enough do, but one based upon strategic, common-sense ideas. It’s one thing to have strategy, and it’s another thing to have government planning,” he added.
As the county moves forward with a potential comprehensive plan, Montgomery said the public should come to meetings and any public hearings that develop during the process to make sure their concerns are heard by both the county and any planners.