The Norman Transcript

April 22, 2013

Density, budget talks to continue as city council considers creation of economic advisory board

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — In the city this week, Norman City Council will continue high density discussions, vote on the creation of an economic advisory board and vote on an economic incentives policy.  Budget talks will also continue with the city’s enterprise funds on this week’s agenda.

On Monday, the Council’s Community Planning and Transportation committee will meet at 5:30 to discuss high density.

A group of residents from Ward 4 have formed an ad hoc committee and submitted a density ordinance mirroring the city’s draft ordinance but reflecting the concerns — chiefly height restrictions and parking — the group believes are important to the community.

On Tuesday, the full city council will meet in a non-voting study session at 5:30 to discuss the enterprise funds portion of the FY 2014 city budget.

Norman’s enterprise funds — operations financed and operated like a private business — include water, sewer and trash. Those funds operate based on rates that are only increased by voter approval. Rather than generating income for the city, those revenues meet the basic needs they are designed to cover but may not cover major capital improvements.

The Finance Committee discussed the General and Special Revenue funds budget this past week. Capital funds will be discussed on May 7. A public budget hearing is slated for May 28, and the council will consider the budget for adoption on June 11.

The regular city council meeting will follow at 6:30.  Council members will have an opportunity to approve the creation of an economic advisory board and to debate and approve or reject an economic policy for incentives.

The use of cash or cash equivalent incentives such as tax waivers which are popular in other communities such as nearby Moore, have been highly debated in Norman. Some say tax incentives are only one tool in the tool kit of incentives a city might use to draw a desirable business to town. Others oppose all incentives saying business should support itself.

The proposed policy does set requirements for incentives including quality jobs creation, requiring good wages and health benefits.

The advisory committee would serve as advisors to the Norman Economic Development Authority. The advisory committee would make recommendations only and would have no power to broker deals or assign incentives to a business. The Authority is comprised of city council members.  The advisory board will be made up of volunteer residents with expertise in economic development, banking and related areas.

The city council’s Business and Community Affairs Committee identified a need for a public trust authority to facilitate potential economic development incentives as a priority in August 2011. The purpose is to provide incentives and bonding capacity to the city and to work in conjunction with the Norman Economic Development Coalition. The Coalition has been recruiting businesses to Norman for 17 years.

The Norman Economic Development Coalition was formed as a private 501(c)(6) in 1997 and has been actively assisting existing businesses, recruiting new businesses and potential employers to Norman since its creation. But NEDC cannot issue bonds or offer the kinds of incentives possible through the newly established economic authority.

At this time, no projects have been identified and there is no dedicated funding source for the Authority. Having the Authority and its advisory board in place sets up a mechanism for the city to use should an appropriate project come along, say supporters.

NEDC began as a collaborative effort between the city of Norman, Chamber of Commerce, and University of Oklahoma, and was expanded to include the Moore-Norman Technology Center as an equal contributor about four years ago, according to city staff notes. NEDC would continue to recruit business to Norman under the new partnership but could refer projects to the city’s advisory board and the economic development authority.

The city council is also expected to adopt a drought tolerant plant policy for all city plantings and will consider a request for a preliminary plat for Rose Rock addition to allow the creation of a private school at 1515 W. Main Street.

Originally, neighbors were concerned about parking and long lines of cars when parents picked up children from the school.

Joy Hampton

366-3539

jhampton@normantranscript.com

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