By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Norman City Council will consider zoning changes for a mobile home park in southeast Norman on Tuesday.
Residents in the park will receive financial incentives to help with relocation if the zoning is approved, but either way, the mobile home park will close, according to the developer.
Sooner Mobile Home Park at 2601 S. Classen Blvd. has existed since 1961, prior to the area being annexed into city limits. The park is home to 85 mobile homes and 50 RVs that are long-term RVs treated as residences.
Now, the property owner wants to redevelop the trailer park as a mixed-use Planned Unit Development with student housing and commercial lots.
Attorney Hal Ezzel, representing the applicant before the planning commission on Nov. 14, said the mobile home park will shut down either way, but the funding will not be available to pay residents to relocate without the zoning change.
In the past, attempts to rezone this mobile home park were controversial because of protests from mobile home residents being displaced. In this proposal, the developer negotiated with other mobile home parks in the area in a cost-share offer that allows them to pay residents for the expense of the move and gives them two months free rent.
Ezzel said without the zoning approval, the money will not be available from his client to fund those incentives. He said 22 mobile homes already have relocated. As part of the deal, residents signed an agreement not to protest the rezoning.
“I think it speaks highly of the ownership group and their sense of taking care of those folks,” Ezzel told the planning commission.
At least one city council member has said the arrangement feels a bit like emotional blackmail — many of the mobile home residents say they live on the edge of the poverty and losing their homes without this assistance could send them into homelessness.
But the city council is charged with weighing the best for Norman’s future development in deciding zoning changes.
In this case, the decision may not be difficult. The planning commission and city staff recommend approval of the zoning change.
The proposed multi-family student housing by Aspen Heights would consist of 179 units totaling 623 beds with 811 parking spaces on 26 acres. The student housing portion of the PUD would run along the east and south, with three commercial lots proposed along the west side of the property.
Amenities proposed for the residential development include a clubhouse, pool, theater room and gym. The north side of the development is in the floodplain and would remain undeveloped. The forested floodplain will serve as a buffer to the nearby residential neighborhood.
The Aspen Heights project was originally proposed on a site adjacent to Hitachi, but that proposal did not move forward. Aspen Heights will be built in the American Craftsman style, structured as separate housing, which Ezzel said is a current trend in multi-family homes.
Student housing has developed in this area with Crimson Park to the south and The Cottages to the east. Ezzel said Norman’s growth supports this need for additional housing that will appeal to, but not be limited to, students.
In the commercial portion of the PUD, the applicant is proposing two restaurants and a grocery store with a fueling station, according to staff notes.
Also on Tuesday’s agenda is an item under consideration for the University North Park. A four-story Residence Inn Hotel is proposed for property east of 24th Avenue Northwest on the south side of Commerce Drive.
The hotel will have 100 rooms and 120 parking spaces on 2.88 acres. It will be located next to a Holiday Inn Express currently under construction and across from the existing Embassy Suites Norman Hotel and Conference Center.
The Residence Inn and the Holiday Inn Express will allow Norman to garner more conventions and conferences in the future.
As the staff of the Embassy Suites works alongside the Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau to bring larger events to Norman, the availability of more hotel rooms will be a big plus, stakeholders say.
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.