The Norman Transcript

December 17, 2013

‘Three-unrelated’ ordinance won’t be challenged

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — A long-standing city zoning ordinance limiting single residential homes to no more than three unrelated persons in residence isn’t going away anytime soon.

The “three-persons unrelated” ordinance was discussed Monday during the Community Planning and Transportation Committee meeting.

“I don’t have any interest in changing the rule but in looking at how we enforce the rule,” committee chair and Council member Greg Jungman said.

Council members serving on the committee include Lynne Miller, Chad Williams and Stephen Tyler Holman. They agreed by consensus not to recommend any changes to the full city council regarding the ordinance.

Recently, Norman City Council member Robert Castleberry, who owns and rents some four-bedroom homes, asked the council to take another look at the ordinance. He said it’s hard to rent four-bedroom homes in Norman because of the ordinance, and that many students are good neighbors.

Castleberry also expressed concern over whether the rule is a violation of personal property rights and said the party house and social host laws have been working to keep the peace in residential neighborhoods.

He said if the matter came before the city council, he would recuse himself because of his rental property.

Miller also said she owns rental property.

The law has legal standing, according to city staff.

“We limit single-family dwelling to relatives by blood, marriage or adoption,” said Planning Director Susan Connors, who said Norman has had limited occupancy in single-family dwellings through city ordinances since 1954.

Connors said the U.S. Supreme court dealt with this issue in a 1974 “landmark zoning case,” Village of Belle Terre V. Boraas.

The decision in that case supports that Norman’s zoning restrictions in this case are legitimate guidelines to constrain the number of people living in a unit, she said.

“The one place we have regulatory language is in the zoning ordinance,” Connors said. “That is the only language in our code that speaks to this issue.”

If a resident has a concern about the number of persons living in a home, a complaint can be made to city code enforcement. The city can look at utility bills to help determine if more than three unrelated people are living in a home.

Sometimes multiple people will be on the utility bill, Connors said.

One of the biggest concerns in single-family neighborhoods is parking.

“We also have a mechanism where a neighbor can keep track of vehicle tags,” she said. “That is evidence that we can take and proceed further with code enforcement.”

If a complaint is verified, notice is given and a time frame is implemented for voluntary compliance. Once the time has elapsed, a fine is issued.

“We have not had too many citations issued,” Connors said.

There have been 233 complaints during the last five years, but most landlords or their renters comply willingly with the law.

Jungman said some communication would be good because some residents think they can’t file a complaint without logging the vehicles, but Connors said that is not the case.

After discussing the protocols and procedures, the committee members decided not to recommend any changes in enforcement of the three-unrelated persons ordinance.

In other business, the committee will recommend renaming the Norman police gun range in honor of Lt. Royce O. Weddle.

Williams said there would be private support to help pay for the signage in memory of Weddle, who served on the Norman Police Department for 20 years and won two national titles in pistol shooting. Weddle also won the Oklahoma National Rifle Association police revolver championship 14 out of 20 years.

Williams said in addition to his shooting, Weddle was known for his “character and heart.”

Norman Police Chief Keith Humphrey said naming the gun range after Weddle would be appropriate.

The matter is expected to come before the full city council for a formal vote Jan. 14.

Joy Hampton



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