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February 20, 2014

Center City Vision steering committee considering new zoning code style

NORMAN — Norman will break out of the mold that has controlled the past to redesign one of the oldest districts in the city.

For nearly a century, most U.S. cities have used word-based zoning — definitions and regulations that outlined the rules land use projects must follow. Such zoning describes the use allowed on a property from commercial to residential to industrial and regulates building height and density.

Form-based code is a different zoning style. Local developer Richard McKown described it as “picture-driven zoning that works.” Now, Norman, in partnership with the University of Oklahoma, will look a the possibility of a form-based code for a central portion of the community.

McKown said the outcome may not end up being form-based — rather it may be something similar that fits well with Oklahoma’s legal structure — but the study currently under way will allow Norman to think outside the Euclidean zoning box as the city creates a vision for its center city.

The area under study is between Campus Corner and downtown. It is bounded on the north by Gray Street, with railroad tracks forming the east boundary, Boyd on the south and Park Avenue and Flood Avenue on the west.

The Center City Vision steering committee met for the first time Wednesday and selected a sub-consultant to work on Norman’s revitalization project. Under consideration were three firms with extensive experience in form-based codes: Duany Plater-Zyberk, Opticos with Ferrell Madden and Dover Kohl & Partners.

“We’ve got a team of rock stars, but we think Ferrell Madden is like the Kevin Durant,” said McKown, who serves as committee co-chair with Mayor Cindy Rosenthal.

The committee analyzed the firms based on experience with form-based code, experience with the National Charrette Institute’s process, Oklahoma project experience and university town experience.

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