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Critics towards Norman’s new Center City Form-Based Code

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report
Attendees present during the forum on March 7 at the City Hall.
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NORMAN, Okla. – The feel of the evening was agitated as supporters and opponents discussed the new Center City Form-Based Code in Ward 4, on Tuesday at the Norman City Hall.

The area covers Gray Street to Boyd Street and from Park Drive to the railway plus an area comprised between Gray Street and Comanche Street going to Flood Avenue.

Ward 4 Councilmember, Bill Hickman presented the proposition of the potential new Center City Form-Based Code before a crowded hall. Also present were Susan Connors, Norman’s planning and community development director and members of the Center City Vision Steering committee.

“The Form-Based Code is a method of regulating development to achieve a civic progress form,” Hickman said, adding the purpose of the Form-Based Code is to create a better place to live.

Connors said the new Form-Base Code will add a new step to the zoning process to be sure the new regulations are followed.

Susan Connors speaking on March 7 at the City Hall.

The Center City Form-Based Code is encouraged in a higher density in the downtown area and also the development of Missing Middle Housing, which are more affordable for single families, in profit to student houses that had spread in the center city during the last decade in the north University area.

Hickman said the goal is to pass the new Center City Form-Based Code and R-3 zoning before the expiration of the moratorium, which will end on July 10, adding, “If there is not action taken by the city council before the moratorium expires, then the existing zoning will continue in place.”

However, attendees present at the meeting composed mostly of realtors and owners were worried about the possible consequences of the new project such as the restriction of the number of cars allowed by houses which could be problematic for student houses with several people in it.

“The idea is if you live in an environment that you can get to the place easier, you don’t need as many cars,” Connors said. “This will not happen overnight it; will take a long time for us to develop.”

Hickman added there will be the possibility to build new parking garages to compensate the restriction of cars by houses.

Bill Hickman speaking on March 7 at the City Hall.

“We don’t have the public transportation such as in Boston or New York, this is not our community,” said Janet Whitworth, an owner in Ward 4. “You shouldn’t force our tenants or people living in our properties to have to go to a parking garage to park their car.”

At the opposite, some supporters of the project were worried that the Form-Based Code will not be able to stop the construction of student houses as most of these dormitories are considered as duplex  (Missing Middle Housing). Even if only a maximum of three unrelated people can live in the same house, some people pointed out the lack of city inspectors to control student houses.

“Proving that there is more than three unrelated people living in the same house is the problem. We have to rely on the neighborhoods,” Connors said.

Opponents to the project were also surprised of the lack of communication from the city council about the new zoning.

“I didn’t know about this project until last year,” Whitworth said. “You should have notified these people who live in this area.”

Photos by Red Dirt Report's Olivier Rey.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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