? Proposed pre-development ordinance draws concerns

By Carol Cole

Transcript Staff Writer

A proposed pre-development ordinance was the subject of a joint study session between four boards Tuesday.

The Norman City Council, Norman Planning Commission, Greenbelt Commission and Developers' Council discussed concerns Tuesday with the ordinance that would require certain development projects to have a meeting with neighbors to share information.

City of Norman Director of Planning Richard Massie told developers in the meeting in council chambers that the new ordinance would provide a way to get early feedback before bringing preliminary and final plats to the City Council and Planning Commission.

"The feeling is ? that if there is a better opportunity for exchange of information between developer and citizens who may be affected by that development at the earliest stage possible, it's going to yield the better result," he said. "It makes it a more positive process all around."

Massie said staff collected ordinances from other cities including Edmond, also Southlake and Frisco, Texas.

The pre-development meetings would be required for all changes requested to the Norman 2025 Land Use and Transportation Plan, special use requests and rezoning requests for tracts larger than 40 acres, as well as preliminary plats. Protests of 20 percent would also trigger the meetings.

The meetings would be facilitated by a city employee, who would not be there to form an opinion but to answer technical questions.

Councilmember Cindy Rosenthal said she had received some concerns about how much detail would need to go into the information provided at the meeting, including the narrative and sketch plat.

"We would see that the facts are shared, not just the rumors," Massie said. "We don't want it to be the preliminary plat a month early."

The ordinance met with resistance from the Norman Developers' Council.

NDC attorney Harold Heiple said pre-development meetings would add another layer of regulation to "what is already the longest development pipeline in the metropolitan area."

"This ordinance is overkill," he said. "It will stifle orderly growth."

Heiple said the city council was trying to avoid long and contentious meetings.

"There are better ways to address the problem," he said, urging the meetings not be mandatory. "All we need is a resolution which lays out policies and goals."

Developer Gene McKown said the pre-development meetings can get lively as happened when 350 people showed up to protest a meeting in Edmond regarding an affordable housing project he was working on.

"That one was just wild," McKown said.

Developer Don Wells expressed that the ordinance would change the notification area around a development from 300 feet to 350 feet.

"I don't see what benefit it is and it will cause considerable problems," Wells said.

Massie said one difference between Edmond's pre-development meetings and the meetings proposed for Norman is that the Edmond planning staff chooses which developments receive pre-development scrutiny for that city. In Norman, the meeting requirement kicks in when the criteria are met.

Recently some Norman developments have stalled under protests of rezoning from neighboring residents including Windstone Farms and Siena Springs.

"I wish that this process had been in place two years ago," said Les Crabtree, one of the petitioners against Windstone Farms. "The process is oftentimes as important as the product. ? I do think this is a step in the right direction."

Pam Jennings, who led the petition against Windstone Farms, expressed her concern that if those objecting to developments aren't involved in the beginning, that they might lose some of their voice at the City Council or Planning Commission.

"These plats can and do change regularly," she said, noting that the neighbors did not have objections to the Windstone preliminary plat, only when it was modified at a later date.

Carol Cole 366-3538 ccole@normantranscript.com

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