The Norman Transcript

November 28, 2012

Zoning request draws protest

City council to weigh property right issues

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — City council to weigh property right issues

Concerned residents packed Norman city hall Tuesday night to protest a proposed apartment complex at 36th Avenue Northwest and Tecumseh Road. Protesters had gathered 835 signatures on a petition opposing the adjustment of the 2025 Land Use and Transportation Plan and the accompanying zoning change required for the development to move forward.

Despite that, the Norman City Council was expected to approve the zoning change.

With the council meeting moving beyond 11 p.m., no decision had been made as of press time, but residents of nearby Cascade Estates and Castlerock who mounted an organized protest against the zoning change were hopeful.

The land was designated as C-1 commercial, and many residents said commercial is badly needed in that area.

“We’ve debated this project for quite a long time now,” said attorney Sean Rieger, who represented the applicant. “We have gone above and beyond in protecting this neighborhood.”

But opponents were not moved by changes and concessions made by the developer in order to accommodate the concerns voiced throughout the planning and zoning process which started with the predevelopment meeting between neighbors and the development team.

Rieger said the number of rooftops will not support commercial there, but the protesters disagree.

Protesters said many of their sales tax dollars get spent in Moore because there is no placed to stop for basic needs on the way home from work.

Engineer Tom McCaleb said the multifamily zoning will result in a 79 percent reduction in traffic from C-1 use.

“There is one driveway on 36th and there is one driveway on Tecumseh. The previous plat had three driveways, one has been eliminated,” McCaleb said. “An updated traffic impact analysis was done.”

Traffic projections during peak times are lower with the site developed as multifamily versus commercial.

“We’ve moved buildings away from the western property line neighborhood,” McCaleb said.

In addition, those buildings will have no windows facing the residential neighborhood and the height of those buildings will be two stories, not three.

“The closest windows that actually face the neighborhood are over 300 feet away,” McCaleb said.

The project proposed “tuck under” garages, a characteristic of higher-end apartments, he said.

Other high-end elements include 70 percent or more masonry and high-quality materials.

“I can’t think of another facility that has integrated garages like this,” Rieger said.

He said the $103,000 per unit cost is unusual for Norman. The area has changed because the HealthPlex was built in the area.

Rieger said 25 acres of high-density residential was planned for across the street, but the high-density residential was lost in the shuffle when the hospital came along, leaving a shortage of high density, which is needed, Rieger said.

The complex would target young professionals and will have 65 percent one bedroom units.

Protester Heath Hans said the funding from Housing and Urban Development is making the project possible.

He said with interest costs so low, he questions why HUD financing is needed.

“In 2008 when the market dropped, things changed at that corner,” Hans said.

He urged the city council to hold on and believe that commercial growth will come to that corner.

Hans said available funding right now for multifamily is what is pushing that development, but multifamily does not meet the area’s needs.

“I think the HUD financing was mischaracterized,” former council member Hal Ezzell said. He spoke in favor of the project.



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