The Norman Transcript

May 15, 2013

Vote on high-density rezoning request postponed for fifth time

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Once again, a controversial high-density zoning project on Asp Avenue in Campus Corner was postponed at city hall Tuesday night. Norman residents who have showed up five times now said they are frustrated that the city council continues to allow the delay.

Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said it is a long-standing policy to allow applicants to postpone. The high-density project in question is an extreme case, but the contributing reason for the delay has been a lack of policy by the city to deal with high-density zoning requests.

Members of the city council, working as the Community Planning and Transportation Committee, have been working on a draft ordinance to permit high-density zoning under restricted conditions. Until that ordinance is established, the project on Asp, commonly referred to as the Risser project, will likely continue to be postponed.

Applicant Mark Risser’s proposed project at Asp and Buchanan avenues is one of two projects that propelled the city into a high-density discussion that involved a series of community dialogues last summer.

Risser requested a change in the 2025 Land Use and Transportation Plan to build a mixed use commercial and residential, multi-family housing project. The proposed building would wrap around, creating a six-story, U-shaped structure, according to city staff notes.

The proposed project includes a 250-space parking garage on the first and second floors and about 7,500 square feet of commercial/retail on the first floor. The remaining four floors are designated for 200 apartments — 160 single-bed units and 40 two-bed units.

During the dialogue discussions, Ward 4 Council member Greg Jungman opposed the Risser project and sought to prohibit high-density projects on the Corner.

Monday night, Jungman was overruled by an unofficial consensus as council members continue to hash out high-density issues as they work on the high-density residential zoning draft ordinance.

Tuesday night, the city council unanimously approved the request by Risser for a postponement until June — the fifth such postponement.

During the public comments section of the council meeting, Ward 4 resident Scott Williams spoke in favor of high density on Campus Corner. He lives in the Chautauqua Historic District and teaches architecture at the University of Oklahoma.

“I feel that high density in a core area enhances livability,” he said. “I think that the Campus Corner proposal is a good one.”

He commended the project architects and said it is not just a single high rise but is “nice in scale” and complemented various amenities proposed in the project. He said it would be an upscale development, much nicer than existing multi-housing units in the area.

In other council business, the council approved $1,584,748 to purchase 32,000 new recycling carts from Rehrig Pacific. The blue 95-gallon recycling carts are like the lidded and wheeled green carts currently used for household trash.

The city will change to biweekly curbside recycling starting Aug. 5.

The large blue carts will keep trash from blowing around and will allow for cardboard to be added to the items recycled at curbside.

The current 18-gallon bins, which are owned by Waste Management, will be picked up for recycling on the final day of that service, Utilities Director Ken Komiske said. Allied Waste Systems Inc. will supply the biweekly recycling pickup for the next five years.

Joy Hampton