The Norman Transcript

Opinion

April 21, 2013

Will Norman’s new high density zoning ordinance protect Norman’s Stakeholders?

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

When I recently switched my homeowners insurance, the adjusters initially refused to provide coverage because a tree was touching my house.  What’s wrong with a tree?  It gives shade and a place for animals to live!  The problem was that it created a safety hazard and could have cracked the foundation.  Had the tree been growing just a few away, there would have been no concerns.  To protect my house (and qualify for insurance) I cannot allow a tree to grow so close to my home’s foundation. 

Like a tree, the particular placement of a building project determines whether it is a hazard or an asset to a community.  Zoning rules serve two important purposes.  First, they protect property owners from encroachment created by changes in land use.  Zoning creates some reasonable expectations of long term land use of neighboring properties and allows individuals to better assess the long-run value of their property.  Second, zoning helps local governments predict growth and plan for service delivery, including water, fire, police, schools, and transportation infrastructure.  Ultimately, well-designed zoning protects existing and future property owners and taxpayers.

 Developers design projects that are expected to meet demand at a reasonable profit.  Their cost-benefit analysis, however, does not include potential impacts on the neighborhood or the community as a whole.  For instance, it is hard to imagine that the 6-unit apartment building being built at 930 Elm Ave did not have a negative impact on the value of the neighboring single family home.  Now imagine a high rise apartment that fundamentally changes the nature of a neighborhood.  Will our new zoning ordinance protect YOUR neighborhood from such an encroachment? 

 Collectively, citizens and taxpayers have tremendous ‘skin in the game’ when it comes to zoning ordinances.  The community dialogues hosted by the City, as well as a survey conducted by a private citizen, Jeanette Coker, were crucial for assessing the values and vision of community stakeholders.  At 5:30 p.m. Monday there will be a committee meeting on the high density ordinance. In addition to the working draft created by the City Planning office, a group of citizens have submitted an alternative which more closely follows the community dialogue reports. 

As we move forward, it is important that we consider the collective body of input to create a well-designed ordinance that balances the needs of all the stakeholders in the community.  

Cynthia Rogers

Norman

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