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November 13, 2013

City council approves Rose Rock elementary

NORMAN — Norman City Council members late Tuesday approved a plan to use a former dairy and residence at 1515 W. Main St. as a private elementary school.

Just before midnight Tuesday, the council voted 8 to 1 to rezone the property for a private “mixed elementary” school. The meeting was long, and the debate was tense at times.

Voting yes were Mayor Cindy Rosenthal and council members Greg Heiple, Lynne Miller, Tom Kovach, Greg Jungman, James Griffith, Stephen Holman and Robert Castleberry. The lone opponent was Chad Williams.

Rose Rock School plans to use the property for up to 59 elementary school students. Neighbors had fought the school’s plan for nearly two years. Their concerns were mostly about added Main Street traffic in front of the former dairy that has been a single-family residence for many years.

The school has been turned down before but revised its numbers and made other concessions to neighbors. The planning commission first heard and recommended denial of the PUD request on May 10, 2012, according to city staff reports. At the applicant’s request, the city council postponed the zoning change on first reading on March 12 this year and again on March 26 and April 9. On April 23, the applicant withdrew the preliminary plat.

The PUD, zoning and land change request came back before the planning commission on Sept. 12. At that time, city staff and the planning commission recommended approval, but the request was postponed again at the Oct. 12 council meeting, at the applicant’s request.

On Tuesday night, debate lasted nearly three hours. Fifty-one percent of the neighbors protested the application.

“The problem before you is the applicant made a real estate mistake,” said Sean Rieger, an attorney representing some neighbors opposed to the project.

He said the applicant paid $820,000 for the property, with the intent of making it a school without obtaining proper zoning. Rieger said his clients who oppose the proposal had met with the school’s backers in hopes of making some concessions on traffic, fencing and other issues.

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