NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:
At the Jan. 8 city council meeting, developers went to twisting arms, insinuating threats and persuading council members to move forward on the North Water Reclamation Facility. They succeeded. The motion committing $250,000 for design and engineering services was passed 7-2.
The proposed $100 million treatment plant, with its 4.5 million gallons per day (mgd) capacity, is now closer to construction. Why are the developers and their pocket council members so persistent on this?
The agricultural lands north and west of town currently are occupied by small farms, ranches and acreages. Most of these areas fall under “Very Low-Density Residential” or anther rural designation. Intense development is not allowed, so there is limited impact on the environment.
However, developers are making strides toward rezoning these areas for higher-density suburbs and commercial developments. Why? More profitable retail playgrounds and PUDs, of course. Their business model is to replace floodplains, wetlands and watersheds with the ancillary feats of environmental engineering and taxpayer-funded reclamation projects.
This type of growth and over-development is a primary cause of the water crisis. Every new acre of impervious surface calls for an engineered solution to corral the natural flow of water into rejoining the water cycle via the “path of most resistance.”
The engineered solutions like the ones NWRF developers have been lobbying for will only make matters worse. Even the developers should be concerned that their vision of growth is nothing less than the gradual annihilation of the natural environment.
Under pressure from state agencies and environmental groups, City leaders have made gestures toward counteracting the destruction by supporting efforts to slow the growth in key areas to a more controllable speed. Developers respond by claiming the city hasn’t squared up on past debts going back for a decade.
It’s like a bookie pulling a shakedown, but instead of breaking thumbs, they’re insinuating threats of electioneering schemes and lawsuits. If the city won’t allow them to build whatever they want, wherever they please, they say they’ll just “take their business elsewhere.”