? Council, Planning Commission, developers set joint study session

By Carol Cole

Transcript Staff Writer

A joint study session with city leaders and developers will examine a City of Norman proposed ordinance creating pre-development meetings.

The Norman City Council, Norman Planning Commission, Greenbelt Commission and Developers' Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. today in council chambers to discuss the ordinance.

The proposed ordinance would create a new requirement for a developer to have a pre-development meeting for "all plan changes, special use requests and rezoning requests for a tract of land larger than 40 acres, as well as for all new preliminary plats."

The ordinance specifies that "if an applicant has chosen not to schedule a pre-development information meeting and his application generates a filed protest comprising at least 20 percent of the required notification area, either the Planning Commission or City Council shall require that the item be postponed until such meeting can be held."

City staff have said the purpose of pre-development meetings is to allow neighbors to meet with the applicant in an informal setting to gain information about the proposed application, with a goal of settling disputes or concerns in neighborhoods before they reach the Planning Commission or City Council.

The city would require the application packet for the pre-development meeting be received in the planning department 17 days before the planned meeting.

The Norman Developers' Council submitted comments to the city July 14, about the pre-development meetings and other proposed ordinances.

Developers objected to having the pre-development meetings mandatory before an owner can file for a Norman 2025 Land Use and Transportation Plan change or a 40-or-more-acre tract rezoning or a special use permit for a tract.

They cited a problem that some tracts would never draw any objections from neighbors.

"As to those tracts where an early meeting with neighbors might help, requiring the meeting before an application can even be filed would add another 30 days to what is already the longest development pipeline in the metropolitan area," wrote Harold Heiple, attorney for the Developers' Council in the group's response.

The Developers' Council suggested the city make pre-development meetings optional and delete the requirement for an automatic postponement where there is a 20 percent protest.

"Let the owner proceed at his peril," Heiple wrote.

The ordinance sections that require a pre-development meeting before an owner can file a preliminary plat also drew fire from the group. The meetings would require a detailed narrative, full-sized drawings showing lots, roads, topography, flood plans, existing easements, structure, physical features and proposed open spaces, as well as a site plan showing buildings, parking, driveways, landscaping areas and screening.

"Where do we start?" Heiple wrote. "Norman developers do not object to voluntary pre-development meetings where a change is sought to the 2025 Plan or for a rezoning to a more-intensive use. Those are areas where the City Council has discretion."

However, he wrote that inviting neighborhood opposition to developments that comply with applicable ordinances is to invite a "NIMBY" or "not in my backyard" culture "to strangle a vibrant and healthy economy."

The group's solution: "Reject these two sections, outright."

Fourteen of the group's 18 developers signed the council's input on the city's proposed ordinance.

Other input from the Developers' Council will be considered on the city's other two ordinances that would create stronger aesthetic requirements on masonry, landscaping and other building requirements.

A study session for the two remaining ordinances is planned Aug. 16.

Carol Cole 366-3538 ccole@normantranscript.com

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