The Norman Transcript

October 24, 2012

No high density yet

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Norman has been talking about high-density development for several months, but the talk Tuesday night at the Norman City Council was “no.”

This was in response to a request by the Elsey Brothers for a land-use amendment that would set the groundwork for high-density apartments. While some council members said they support high density and walkability, they all said until the city develops a policy, the land-use amendment would be premature.

The city is working on a policy following a series of high-density dialogues where city planners collected public input.

The request by the Elsey Brothers to build a high-density development was one of the factors driving the dialogues and the development of a policy for the city. Currently, density tops at around 26 units per acre, with slightly higher density allowed in Mixed Use Development projects.

The high-density policy would address request for much higher density at 100 units per acre and beyond.

“We’re architecture grads,” developer Chris Elsey said. “We drove around the perimeter of the university. We feel like there’s an opportunity here.”

Elsey said getting students where they can walk to the university creates a “really dynamic” community. A first project on Boyd Street across from the Mont to the east drew strong opposition from single-family residential neighborhoods nearby. The area under consideration is to the west of the railroad tracks on Boyd Street.

“The majority of the area is rental,” Elsey said.

“We would propose having an interior parking garage,” he said.

The proposal is for 250 bedrooms per acre and 75 feet or six stories in height, with five of those stories for living.

“If you want to do a design review board, we can make it look like anything you want. What we have to have is the volume,” Elsey said.

“We feel like this is the right place. We feel like people can walk to campus,” he said. “Is this the right place? If not, where? Our market, is the student population.”

The city council voted unanimously to deny the request.

In other city business, council member Dave Spaulding opposed some volunteer appointments by the mayor. Norman has a long tradition of not disparaging volunteers who serve on city boards and commissions.

The appointments are placed on the consent agenda and approved by consensus without discussion or debate over any individual’s character or qualification.

“I have been asked by members of this council to remove all of these appointments,” Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said of the appointments to the Human Rights Commission. “I have been asked to remove the only Native American member of this commission. I have been asked to remove the only Hispanic member of the human rights commission.”

Council members Roger Gallagher and Dave Spaulding had asked for removal of the Human Rights Commission nominees. Rosenthal removed all of the appointments proposed for the Human Rights Commission and the council approved the other appointments.

Spaulding also voted against a proclamation making the month of October National Bullying Awareness Month and was the sole “no” vote against granting special use of a bar for Opolis at 113 N. Crawford Ave. in downtown Norman.

In addition, Spaulding was the lone “no” vote on a resolution to approve and authorize an interest-free loan from Republic Bank to finance parking meters for the downtown parking lot on Gray Street between Crawford and Peters avenues.

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