The Norman Transcript

February 13, 2014

Three persons unrelated law challenged during City Council Oversight Committee

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — A law meant to protect single-family neighborhoods is under fire and could be modified or eliminated. Opponents of the city’s “three persons unrelated” law said Norman’s social host laws provide most of the protection needed.

“We don’t want it (the three persons unrelated law) modified, we want it abolished,” said John Lungren, a real estate owner, broker, property manager and landlord who said it’s an ugly ordinance that may violate fair housing laws.

The City Council Oversight Committee looked at two city ordinances Wednesday that may need to be modified. The oversight committee is charged with reviewing already existing ordinances, committee chair Council Member Lynne Miller said.

Council members sitting on the committee don’t vote but gather information from city staff and others, then forward ordinances to city council if change is warranted.

Miller said this issue has been brought up a number of times, and multiple students in a residence continues to be an issue for many Norman neighborhoods. Traffic, noise and parking are primary concerns.

Council member Greg Jungman said Fair Housing laws are not violated by the city’s ordinance. He supports the ordinance as is and does not want it changed.

Currently, the ordinance prohibits occupancy in single-family dwelling to families and to “no more than three unrelated persons,” according to city staff notes.

The ordinance has been in place since 1954 and was designed to “help protect the quality and character of neighborhoods,” according to a report by Planning and Community Development Director Susan Connors.

Connors said the ordinance helps reduce traffic, noise and parking problems that occur when numerous unrelated persons reside in the same home.

It’s an issue other college towns — including Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Oxford, Miss. — also address in a similar manner.

A U.S. Supreme Court case upheld that this type of ordinance is legal, Connors said. The ordinance allows for foster children.

Ward 4 resident Jonathan Fowler spoke in favor of keeping the ordinance.

The real estate broker who sold Fowler his home, Scott Foster, spoke in favor of eliminating the ordinance.

Council members and several people who attended the meeting said they want to protect Norman neighborhoods. The debate centers around whether the three persons unrelated law is the way to do that.

“I don’t think we should be overly proud of ourselves that it’s been here since 1954,” Council member Tom Kovach said.

Several questions were raised during the discussion, and city staff will continue to research the issue, looking for answers to the questions posed Wednesday.

The oversight committee also looked at a city ordinance dealing with vacant and abandoned properties.

At this time, a bill in the state legislature would alter the state law regarding these properties, and the committee decided to track the bill and wait before changing the city ordinance.

Joy Hampton




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