The Oxford City Council agreed at Tuesday’s council meeting to annex 411 acres, zoned agricultural, next to the Interstate 20 and U.S. 431 interchange. The land begins near exit 188 on Interstate 20 and ends near exit 191. A portion of that land is in Cleburne County, adding that third county to Oxford’s land in Calhoun and Talladega.
Owners of the property — Bennett Realty, James Bennett, Joseph Bennett, Kay Hubbard and David Bennett — currently have no specific plans to develop the land for commercial or retail use, said James Bennett, speaking after the meeting. The land was most recently the site of a sod farm.
Family members have talked about requesting to have the land annexed into Oxford for many years, Bennett said, and they all finally came to an agreement to move forward.
While the family says there are no current plans to develop the property, city officials recognize the opportunity the land has for the city’s future, and expressed their excitement over the annexation.
“What we’re trying to do is get the interchange into the city,” Henderson said, referring to the interstate exit. “Right now it’s a swampy area, but there is some potential for development.”
Steven Waits, council president, said that the annexation “is really going to expand the footprint of Oxford. This is just a great annexation for the city.”
The annexation will help attract commercial developers, Henderson said. The city typically offers tax abatements to lure commercial projects, he said.
Brian Johnson, assistant professor of Geography at Auburn University in Montgomery, said annexing the land can be good for the city, county and landowners.
Without annexation, growth can put a strain on the volunteer fire departments and sheriff’s offices associated with the county, Johnson said, so it makes sense for city services to take up the slack.
“It’s kind of how the system is supposed to work. Growth happens, or growth is planned, the city annexes it and takes over the burden of providing those services from the county,” Johnson said.
After voting to approve the annexation, the council announced that a piece of existing city-owned property would be getting a new name.
In a show of support, the council named a sports field on Airport Road, known as Barber Dairy field, after longtime city worker Jackie Stovall. Stovall, who has been suffering from health problems in recent months, is the father of Jackie Stovall, the Heflin police officer injured in a Dec. 15 2012, shooting while pursuing a gunman.
Stovall moved to Oxford in 1968, and for many years coached youth sports. He managed the concession stands for the city’s parks and recreation department for about 19 years.
“Jack Stovall, you’re a good one,” said Don Hudson, director of the Oxford parks and recreation department, speaking to Stovall during the meeting.
Hudson announced that the city had proclaimed Tuesday as Jackie “Big Jack” Stovall day, and named the field Jackie “Big Jack” Stovall Field.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the council also agreed to enter into a contract with Munroe and Jenkins LLC to develop a master plan for a new city garage and to draft plans for a maintenance building for the parks and recreation department.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.