The Norman Transcript


December 18, 2012

High density zoning district currently under consideration

NORMAN — Discussions to finalize a city ordinance to allow high density residential or mixed used multi-family dwellings in Norman is going nowhere fast. Members of the Norman City Council sitting on the Community Planning and Transportation Committee agreed to disagree on height limitations and said they will revisit the matter in January.

While some small amount of progress was made in the discussion of how to measure density restrictions, developers told council members that the height restriction proposed by some for the Campus Corner area is not economically viable.

Council member Greg Jungman was adamant that a three-story or equivalent height limit should apply to the Campus Corner area but that up to five stories could be allowed in Downtown Norman. Council member Robert Castleberry disagreed, preferring to leave the ordinance more open to allow the council to look at the overall quality and compatibility of proposed projects.

“I think compatibility is the factor,” Jungman said, but he argued that on Campus Corner compatibility means staying at three-stories high or less. The height of the Sarkey’s Energy Tower and other sizable buildings across the street on the University of Oklahoma campus were not relevant because “Campus Corner has a totally different sense of place.”

Developers urged a height measured in feet not stories saying that 75 feet is consistent with recommendations in the International Building Code.

“I think you need to put an actual height limitation,” Chris Elsey, a developer who wants to build in the Campus Corner area.

Attorney Sean Rieger who represents many development interests talked about marketability.

“Story height can be anything,” he said. “We would urge you to look at 75 feet.”

Rieger also weighed in on density measurement.

“We would prefer you look at floor area ratio,” he said.

Floor area ratio — FAR— is a more holistic way of looking at a density that dwelling units per acre, he said.

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