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Norman City Council Developing Plan for Growth - June 4, 2017

We had a full house and a full agenda for our May 23 council meeting. It was the longest one I’ve presided over and, as usual, I learned a lot: from my fellow council members, from staff, from the audience members and from Robert’s Rules of Order. 
Every item on the agenda is important to someone, but occasionally we have a number of critical issues to consider. We had a public hearing on our annual budget and a presentation on Norman’s Convention and Visitors’ budget. We discussed amendments to our floodplain ordinance and voted on rezoning the area between the campus and downtown, known as Center City.
The most controversial, the longest and most hotly debated issue was the passage of the Center City rezoning ordinance. This is the largest issue with which our council has had to deal and is a significant planning step for Norman. 
The Center City plan was the result of three years of citizen, staff and council input. The process started with small group meetings of residents working with a consultant that evolved into a citizens committee of 13 representing the neighborhoods, the development community, property owners and university representatives. 
These residents worked for two years to refine the product presented by the consultant and ready it for the council’s consideration. This plan outlines a redevelopment process for the center core area of Norman from the Campus Corner to Gray Street downtown.
It changes the zoning dramatically to encourage more urban mixed development of business and residential and increases density using multiple-story construction.
Why do it at all? Many cities that have struggled planning for growth have decided that for sustainability and health reasons to build up and incorporate both business and residential construction more closely together. This encourages more walkability and seems to be a preference for many millennials and a growing number of seniors. 
Many weeks of meetings and conversations occurred before the council was ready to bring it to a vote. 
During the council meeting, a number of amendments were offered, with council member Hickman carrying the load for the council as Ward 4 representative. He truly worked hard with his constituents to find common ground on a number of issues. One property owner offered several amendments from the floor at midnight. 
Everyone was heard and the council voted to pass the ordinance with a vote of 9-0. We also declared our intent to consider establishment of a TIF district and authorized the appointment of a TIF review committee. The establishment of a Center City Tax Increment Finance District could help fund infrastructure improvements needed in this older area of Norman.
This is a big step and comes as we continue developing our next Comprehensive Planning Document.
The constant tension of growth/no growth and sprawl and density continues. 
Realistically, a city has to have growth to be healthy. Where do those new people (1,500 to 2,000 per year) moving to town live? Do we continue to build out in green-field areas?
Do we run the risk of polluting the Lake Thunderbird watershed if we move too far east? Do we build up and more densely, in the core area of your community? That is what Center City does. It is part of the Plan Norman draft recommendations. 
I am optimistic, we have a plan, we can be flexible, and we have a community full of hard-working, creative people.

We had a full house and a full agenda for our May 23 council meeting. It was the longest one I’ve presided over and, as usual, I learned a lot: from my fellow council members, from staff, from the audience members and from Robert’s Rules of Order. 

Every item on the agenda is important to someone, but occasionally we have a number of critical issues to consider. We had a public hearing on our annual budget and a presentation on Norman’s Convention and Visitors’ budget. We discussed amendments to our floodplain ordinance and voted on rezoning the area between the campus and downtown, known as Center City.

The most controversial, the longest and most hotly debated issue was the passage of the Center City rezoning ordinance. This is the largest issue with which our council has had to deal and is a significant planning step for Norman. 

The Center City plan was the result of three years of citizen, staff and council input. The process started with small group meetings of residents working with a consultant that evolved into a citizens committee of 13 representing the neighborhoods, the development community, property owners and university representatives. 

These residents worked for two years to refine the product presented by the consultant and ready it for the council’s consideration. This plan outlines a redevelopment process for the center core area of Norman from the Campus Corner to Gray Street downtown.

It changes the zoning dramatically to encourage more urban mixed development of business and residential and increases density using multiple-story construction.

Why do it at all? Many cities that have struggled planning for growth have decided that for sustainability and health reasons to build up and incorporate both business and residential construction more closely together. This encourages more walkability and seems to be a preference for many millennials and a growing number of seniors. 

Many weeks of meetings and conversations occurred before the council was ready to bring it to a vote. 

During the council meeting, a number of amendments were offered, with council member Hickman carrying the load for the council as Ward 4 representative. He truly worked hard with his constituents to find common ground on a number of issues. One property owner offered several amendments from the floor at midnight. 

Everyone was heard and the council voted to pass the ordinance with a vote of 9-0. We also declared our intent to consider establishment of a TIF district and authorized the appointment of a TIF review committee. The establishment of a Center City Tax Increment Finance District could help fund infrastructure improvements needed in this older area of Norman.

This is a big step and comes as we continue developing our next Comprehensive Planning Document.

The constant tension of growth/no growth and sprawl and density continues. 

Realistically, a city has to have growth to be healthy. Where do those new people (1,500 to 2,000 per year) moving to town live? Do we continue to build out in green-field areas?

Do we run the risk of polluting the Lake Thunderbird watershed if we move too far east? Do we build up and more densely, in the core area of your community? That is what Center City does. It is part of the Plan Norman draft recommendations. 

I am optimistic, we have a plan, we can be flexible, and we have a community full of hard-working, creative people.