The Norman Transcript

June 4, 2013

Questions remain about high-density

By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Norman residents questioned differences between the high-density dialogue series and a proposed draft ordinance under discussion Monday night at city hall.

Public comment indicated that changes included special protection in areas of Norman, a height limit on buildings and the language used in the draft talking about the location of high-density uses.

“What I see here and in this draft is that it’s really not what the citizens wanted, it’s not what was said in those six meetings this past summer,” said a citizen who lives on the 500 block of Tulsa Street.

Susan Connors, director of planning and community development who was moderating Monday, said the ordinance draft has evolved since the summer through the process of input from questions asked of staff, research that the staff has done, input from the public and elements that the city council — working as the Community Planning and Transportation Committee — has amended and changed over time.

When Norman resident Steve Ellis asked why those amendments were made, Connors said she could not answer for the committee.

According to the draft, as of May 16, there would potentially be three HDR zones.

· HDR-1 limits building height to three stories, or 45 feet, with maximum density of 40 dwelling units per acre.

· HDR-2 limits building height to four stories, or 55 feet, with maximum density of 75 dwelling units per acre.

· HDR-3 sets no limits on building height or maximum density of dwelling units per acre.

During the summer dialogues, residents said they talked about wanting a height limit and now there is a zone with unlimited height. Also, residents questioned the language used in the draft about the location of each of the HDRs. Listed below are the location of high-density uses for each of the zones:

· HDR-1 zones must be located on an arterial or collector street.

· HDR-2 zones must be located on an arterial street or located on a collector street within 700 feet of an arterial street, as long as all intervening land uses between the development site and the arterial street are non-residential. It is discouraged to locate a HDR-2 zone adjacent to or across the street from single-family uses.

· HDR-3 zones must be located on an arterial street. HDR-3 zones cannot be located adjacent to or across the street from single-family uses.

As Norman resident Cindy Rogers said, the language is not as specific as some might like it to be. For example HDR-2 zones are only “discouraged” to locate near single-family homes, Rogers said.

In addition, the definitions of “arterial” and “collector” streets were unclear to many. Resident Barbara Fite said according to engineering definitions she had found, a collector street must be two lanes and arterial streets must be four lanes. However, those two types of streets identified on Norman’s high-density maps are many times not in compliance with the definition she found.

Connors said they used a different definition for the two streets, adding that they were defined by the volume of traffic and not always the design specifications.

Fite also said many of those streets already have a high volume of traffic and adding high-density uses could make it worse.

As far as special protection in parts of Norman, aside from protecting single-family homes against buildings taller than 75 feet, it appeared that the ordinance draft only discussed protection in Norman’s historic districts.

The draft states that high-density projects located in locally designated historic districts are subject to the preservation guidelines and standards of the Historic District Overly and projects will be reviewed by the Historic District Commission.

The next high-density discussion will be a joint study session between the Community Planning and Transportation Committee and the city council at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at city hall, where city council members will determine further action.