The Norman Transcript

April 29, 2014

Leaders to put hold on building permits in Center City Visioning project corridor

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The Norman City Council has instructed city staff to create a resolution that will put a hold on building permits in the Center City Visioning plan area. The administrative delay will include demolition and new construction.

Remodeling and storm shelters will be permitted.

Council members Greg Jungman and Stephen Tyler Holman were concerned with ongoing projects that might not fit the future zoning within the center city corridor identified as part of a project the city is looking at in conjunction with the University of Oklahoma.

Portions of the project area have been zoned as R-3 since 1954. This allows for construction of multi-family housing without notification to single-family residences.

Additionally, the city is considering high density for portions of the corridor so projects could be overbuilt or underbuilt, depending on the future zoning in the area.

The visioning project was conceived in response to redevelopment pressure, with the city trying to respond fairly and within sometimes outdated zoning applications to proposals coming in for rezoning or special permits.

A series of talks on high density in Norman stalled last year, and now the city is working proactively with OU to create a plan for the city’s future within a defined corridor that is bounded by Gray Street on the north, Flood Avenue on the west, Boyd Street on the south and the BNSF Railroad on the east.

The plan includes a charrette process, to be hosted at 127 W. Main St. Three public meetings in May will garner public ideas for the vision, as well as public input on the work in progress by the design team.

Meanwhile, old zoning is allowing projects that may not fit in the new vision.

Holman said the R-3 zoning allows for a wide variety of structures with no notice to nearby historic homes.

An administrative delay is allowable under the law — the city’s right to plan must be balanced with property rights, Assistant City Attorney Kathryn Walker said.

The council is considering a six-month delay to allow the visioning charrette process to move forward. City staff will bring an ordinance to the council for consideration at the next Community Transportation and Planning Committee on May 19.

In other business, City Engineer Angelo Lombardo presented information about two grants the city could be eligible for under a new federal transportation alternatives program.

Safety and connectivity are two of the identified priorities in this program and would fit with Norman’s green ways initiatives.

The Association for Central Oklahoma Governments will administer $2.8 million in funding available to the identified Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Much of Norman fits within that designation, with the exception of some rural portions mostly in East Norman. As much as $500,000 per project is available, and municipalities much provide matching funds.

Two projects have been identified as good candidates for the grant money, Lombardo said: the Downtown Main Street Improvement Project — West and an extension of Legacy Trail.

The east side of downtown Main Street has been made more accessible and attractive with upgraded signal lights, curb cuts with ramps and new landscaping. This project would extend that look from the railroad tracks west just past University Boulevard.

The total cost is estimated at $1,730,000. Federal money available would include the transportation alternatives grant at $500,000 and Surface Transportation Project money at $470,000. The local cost share would be $685,000 from the city and $75,000 from a private source.

The second project to be submitted for a grant is a series of connecting extensions of Legacy Trail including a portion along 24th Avenue Northwest running north of Robinson Street and another on 36th Avenue Northwest running north of Rock Creek Road.

“We’ll have an opportunity to get to Ruby Grant Park using the trail,” Lombardo said.

The extension would connect to the Rock Creek Road trail over the Interstate 35 bridge — the only bike-friendly crossing across I-35 in Norman. The 36th Avenue extension would run from Rock Creek Road to Tecumseh Road and eventually to Ruby Grant Park.

Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said other developers along Legacy Trail have had to pay for their portions of the sidewalk. If the city paves this portion, she wants money to be paid into an “in lieu of fund” to be used for sidewalks elsewhere.

The Legacy trail project would cost about $772,250, with the federal transportation alternatives grant paying $500,000 and the city paying $272,250.

Norman will have to compete for the funds. The grant applications are due May 23, with results of awards coming in June.

Tonight, city council will continue to look at the budget with this week’s focus on the city’s enterprise (utility) funds at 5:30 p.m. in the study session room, 201 W. Gray St.

Joy Hampton



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