By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman will tackle high-density development again, this time from the perspective of a study to create a vision for core Norman.
High-density discussions starting in June 2012 ended without conclusion in June 2013. Now, an agreement between the city and the University of Oklahoma will allow for a different approach to development and redevelopment in central and downtown Norman.
Previous high-density discussions focused primarily on development proposals in the Campus Corner area. During that dialogue, proponents of high density met with strong resistance from some Ward 4 residents and Campus Corner businesses that cited traffic and parking as primary concerns.
The hotly debated dicussions were tabled without formal city council action after a development proposal on Asp Avenue was withdrawn and OU offered to partner with the city to create a vision for a stretch of central Norman that includes Campus Corner and extends to the downtown commercial corridor.
That vision might or might not include high-density zones, said city leaders, but supporters of allowing smaller footprint, upwardly urban lifestyle zoning were encouraged Tuesday night as city council members voted to approve a Memorandum of Understanding with OU.
The MOU comes with a $100,000 price tag — the city’s half of a $200,000 consultant fee.
Norman Chamber of Commerce President John Woods said the agreement creates an opportunity to bring in experts to help Norman with the visioning process.
“I have great hopes and great expectations for this,” Woods said.
The area roughly included in the study runs from Gray and Tonhawa streets on the north along the railroad on the east and Boyd Street on the south. The western boundary runs from Boyd Street north along the lots fronting Elm Avenue to Park Drive, then north on Park Drive to Comanche Street. From Comanche Street to Lahoma Avenue, it then runs west to Flood Avenue and back north toward Gray.
A steering committee made up of council members, university representatives and Norman residents will make recommendations to the city council. The steering committee will not be a decision-making body, and all of its meetings will be open to the public.
An executive subcommittee including the mayor, committee co-chair Richard McKown and university representative Daniel Pullin will administer the project, setting meeting dates, times and places. Those meetings will not be open to the public.
In other city business Tuesday night, a ballot provision to move forward with an April election on the Public Safety Sales Tax renewal drew brief debate.
Norman City Council member Robert Castleberry tried to amend the item for an August vote but was called on a point of order by Council member Greg Jungman.
The council voted 6 to 3 to move forward with the item. Castleberry and Council members Tom Kovach and Chad Williams voted against.
The resolution will not be formally adopted until approved on second reading at the next council meeting in two weeks. In the meantime, the date for the election, as well as other elements of the PSST renewal, is still up for discussion.
A public meeting at 6:30 p.m Jan. 21 at the City Council Chambers will allow for further discussion and public input.
“We still have all the options on the table,” Council member Lynne Miller said.
Miller said that stalling the item Tuesday night on first reading would have eliminated the possibility of keeping the vote on April 1. She and other council members are willing to consider an August election but, for now, want to keep options open.
The city council also adopted odd/even watering conservation as a permanent yearround strategy for the city. This measure follows suit with Oklahoma City and other municipalities that have recognized a growing water concern in the state.
Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske said Norman was the first city in Oklahoma to have a gray water ordinance and city leaders have been quick to adopt water-wise strategies with the support of Norman’s residents.
“There’s a big demand for water conservation,” Komiske said. “People want to do what’s right.”
The council approved the following committee appointments by the mayor:
· Board of Adjustment: Henry Ryan and Andrew Seamans
· Social And Voluntary Services Commission: Aisha Ali and Damian Doyle
The city council also approved hiring Rick Parish as the new golf professional for Westwood Golf Course.
“I’m excited Rick has decided to take the head pro job at Westwood,” Castleberry said.
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