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March 26, 2014

Council approves multi-family projects

NORMAN — In an economy where multi-family residential is a highly desirable investment, Norman is a strong market for developers.

On Tuesday, this point was driven home as the Norman City Council approved two zoning changes to permit multi-family use.

Council members were split on the projects, and both passed by narrow margins with 5 to 4 votes.

The first project on the city’s agenda Tuesday was for a small apartment/townhouse-style development in downtown Norman not far from the historic Silk Stocking district at 213 E. Tonhawa Road. Infill projects, apartments and mixed use are in strong demand downtown, where Council member Stephen Tyler Holman said all apartments are rented.

“The applicant is proposing a three-story townhouse with three dwelling units for the site,” according to city staff notes.

The requested zoning change was from low-density residential to medium-density residential.

“The site is currently vacant, and the lot size is more than adequate to support this type of development,” according to staff notes.

City staff recommended approval, but the planning commission recommended denial of the zoning change.

The applicant is proposing four-bedroom units with a target audience of families or families with college students. The apartments would be high-end with rent of $2,000 monthly.

While the applicant is proposing a high-quality structure,few amenities are offered — no health club, weight room, swimming pool or clubhouse.

A high number of parking spaces also led city council members to question whether renters would violate the city’s ordinance prohibiting three unrelated persons in medium- and low-density zoning.

Additionally, the council has looked at clarifying some elements of the R-3, or medium-density, zoning.

Staff recommended approval because there is a demand for residential dwelling in the downtown area where infill commercial, retail and office are becoming more common. The downtown area is becoming more walkable and Legacy Trail is nearby.

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