The Norman Transcript

May 13, 2014

Council Oversight looking into topics that have caused controversies

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The Norman City Council Oversight Committee will continue discussion on Wednesday of the “three-persons unrelated” law and regulation for oil and gas drilling operations in the city. Both topics have provoked a high degree of controversy at city hall.

The Council Oversight Committee will meet at 6 p.m. this week. The non-voting meeting is comprised of city council members and allows for study and investigation of some of the city’s most important topics before they come for a vote before the full city council.

In February, the committee discussed the three-persons unrelated law and considered potential options for revising or replacing the ordinance.

Norman residents spoke passionately on both sides of the issue with mostly landlords asking that it be removed, and residents who live in single-family neighborhoods tending to speak in favor of keeping the ordinance.

The law is not unique to Norman, according to city staff reports. It limits the number of unrelated persons living in a household to three. While the rule is not enforced unless a neighbor complains, it mostly limits large numbers of college students from renting a home together.

City Planner Susan Connors said unrelated persons, such as students, living together have different lifestyle patterns than families occupying a home. Unrelated persons will have different friends and social lives. That creates more traffic to and from the home, for example.

Some council members were concerned about extenuating circumstances that might cause the three-persons unrelated ordinance to have unintended consequences. One of the discussions on Wednesday will be an examination of ways to vary the ordinance to allow for unusual circumstances.

In February, other council members said they want to keep the ordinance and would like to find a way to make it more enforceable. Those recommendations also will be considered Wednesday.

On Nov. 13, the committee first began discussing oil well site security. There are currently 163 permitted wells within Norman city limits, according to city staff reports. Of those 125 are actively pumping, 18 are inactive, 16 are saltwater injection, four are saltwater supply and one is a saltwater disposal.

Currently, the city requires six-foot chain link fencing if the well is near residential development. City staff will report on what other cities are doing related to fencing, screening and security requirements.

Under discussion will be barbed wire at the top of the fence, landscaping to screen well sites and identifying the well operator who is the responsible party for maintaining the fencing.

The Council Oversight Committee also will look at drilling permits from surrounding cities and whether to tighten regulations to better protect the watershed. Additionally, information will be presented on gas flaring at wells.

The full Norman City Council meets 6:30 tonight and is expected to approve a $25 technology fee for municipal court, which will raise traffic fines in Norman.

While there is often lively discussion at Tuesday night council meetings, much of the study and discussion that goes into the council’s decision-making process occurs in committees such as the council oversight, finance committee and council study session and conferences, among others. Each of these has a posted agenda and is open to the public.

Public input may not be allowed at some committee meetings, since no formal decisions are made.

Joy Hampton



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