Mayday gun range questions city ordinance on sidewalk installation

An artist’s rendering of what the proposed Mayday development could look like.

Photo provided by Scott Webb

An artist’s rendering of what the proposed Mayday development could look like.

By Emily Scott

A plan to develop one of the few remaining tracts in Oxford zoned for industrial use has hit a snag over whether the developer must include pedestrian sidewalks leading to the site.

Mayday Handgun Training LLC owns the Mayday Gun range and the land surrounding it, which is where the new proposed development would be built. The land is nestled between US 27 and Ringwood Road on the city’s west side across US 27 from Walmart. Mayday has proposed developing a business incubator, a self-storage facility and an RV parking, but has designated other plots of land at the site that can be developed in the future. 

“There is a point at which a project is just no longer feasible, and the fact that that is not a consideration of City Council right now is a frustration,” said Scott Webb, Mayday’s architect for the project. 

The Mayday property along US 27 is outlined in black. The existing gun range building appears in white. Photo provided by Scott Webb

A couple of years after the gun range opened in 2018, the city adopted a complete streets plan, which requires all new development to include sidewalks. At first, Mayday considered the idea of connecting a sidewalk from its property to the sidewalks on Route 27. This would require a bridge over the ditch on the side of Route 27, and the company decided it did not want the responsibility or liability of owning a bridge on the property. 

As a result, the plan now includes a sidewalk to Ringwood Road, which does not have sidewalks, because all development on that road was put in before the city adopted the complete streets plan. 

“Oxford, in its plans and in its codes, is committed to access for all people. You shouldn’t have to own a car to be able to circulate the city,” said City Councilor David Prytherch. “We view that as an equity issue. It’s not really fair that development be inaccessible to people who can’t drive. It’s also a sustainability problem, because cars are one of our largest sources of local emissions. Oxford is a town, and the hallmark of towns is walkability.” 

Mayday would be responsible for developing the sidewalks on its site but may also be responsible for sharing the cost of putting a sidewalk on Ringwood Road that would connect to Route 27. Webb said his client is willing to share that cost but is unwilling to take on the responsibility and liability of owning a bridge. 

Community Development Director Sam Perry said that because the plot of land this development sits on is not rectangular, the acreage of the plot compared to those around it would be used to determine a fair proportion for the developer to pay for the sidewalk on Ringwood Road. 

City Council heard a first reading on the development plan March 1. The proposed ordinance says the developer may have to “contribute funds proportional to the impact generated by the  new development,” which may include making a complete connection to Route 27 “by way of  constructing an additional walkway and/or bridge in the northeastern corner of the site.”  

Because of the ditch on the side of Route 27, any sidewalk connection to that road would require a bridge. Webb said his client is worried about being forced into constructing a bridge if at any time the city sees it as necessary in the future. As a result, Webb said that if the ordinance is passed as it is currently written, Mayday may choose to not develop the land at all. 

The cost to build these sidewalks is estimated at $75,000 and $100,000 on top of the rest of the price of development. Perry said that if the project moved to the stage where a building permit was required, the developer would have to submit a cost estimate at that time. 

Prytherch said that when developers do not put in sidewalks because they think no one will walk to a site anyways, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because community members don’t even have that option. 

“It’s their choice to develop at the edge of town, but it’s our commitment as a city that what we develop is connected to the rest of town,” Prytherch said. 

Webb said he is frustrated that there is no exemption in the sidewalk plan, even though he expects few people, if any, to walk to the site of the proposed development. 

Webb said he thinks this development will be a great way to foster local businesses. He said there are many contracting businesses in the area that he has found that work out of storage units. This development would give businesses the storage they need and the office space all in the same location. 

Mayday would own this phase of the development but may look into selling off other parcels for future development, according to the company.