May 14—Conflict between developers and property owners brought dueling opinions from attorneys on both sides during the Norman Planning Commission's Thursday meeting.
A housing developer intended to build near a flood plain area, and asked the commission to rezone it from agricultural to residential and allow a fee in lieu of installing a detention pond. An attorney for property owners claimed the request to sidestep a detention pond violated state law and Norman's own city ordinances.
Commissioners unanimously declined to approve the request.
Shaz Investments, LLC plans to develop 147 homes on 151 acres near its existing development and a farm whose owners say will aggravate flooding woes in the area. The proposed location for the homes is a half mile south of Cedar Lane Road on the east side of Jenkins Avenue, southeast to 12th Avenue S.E., a staff report shows.
Eagle Cliff South Homeowners Association President Derek Rosendahl protested the proposed development Thursday. Armed with several photos of "significant erosion" abutting homes, Rosendahl said Shaz did not install a retaining wall or maintain flood mitigation measures for .
"We have found massive issues in erosion that is unmanageable that were either never finished, or they were attempted to be put in and they did not work," Rosendahl said.
He told commissioners significant changes in runoff have occurred in recent years. As the development has expanded, runoff water has less land area for absorption. Now, Shaz wants to develop it even further.
While some drainage easements exist, Rosendahl noted "steep holes and giant, 35-foot dropoffs" that are accessible to children.
Staff recommended a fee in lieu of a detention pond, despite the staff report stating previously that it recommended a pond.
City development engineer Todd McClellan told the commission that a detention pond slows the rate of water runoff, and in this case, where Bishop Creek flows nearby, it was not appropriate. If no detention pond is installed, the water will flow more quickly to the "undeveloped" land to the south before the creek "comes down the stream."
Fast-moving water or not, that runoff poses a problem for a farmer in the area, said an attorney who represented several property owners and the Potts family farm.
David Birgit urged the commission not to approve the proposed development because it would further "injure" his client's farm land.
Andrew Potts told commissioners during public comment that increased flooding cost his farm up to $8,000 in flooded hay crops.
"We use that money to clean out Bishop Creek on our own expense, even though it wasn't something we caused," he said. "We understand water is flowing through the place and we manage it the best we can, and we've done that for three generations."
In recent years, since development has come to the area, Potts said he sees more and more water "just sitting." Other residents in the area said they remember when the land did not flood.
Birgit said the commission can't allow the fee in lieu of a detention pond due to the city's stormwater master plan, which states only small developments qualify.
He had also not been provided any engineer statement attesting there would be no adverse impacts to land downstream of the development, another requirement he claimed was contingent upon approval. Birgit also said endangering a neighboring property was a violation of state law, but did not cite the statute.
Sean Rieger, the attorney for Shaz, told the commission that staff found no negative impacts to neighboring areas in its report. He also said the preliminary plat is in line with the city's zoning requirements and engineering guidelines.
Rieger noted that significant stormwater runoff from parking lots and University of Oklahoma properties does not abide by the city's regulations. The attorney said floodwater is accumulating south of the development as part of a floodway, where flood water channels naturally according to FEMA definitions.
"There is significant water in a floodway, in a channel," he said. "That's where it goes."
The water pooling to the south is simply part of the river's channel and floodway, Rieger said.
Bike shop denied
Shaz was not the only entity whose request was denied Thursday.
Commissioners declined to approve a proposed motorsport repair and sales lot after the applicant answered a series of questions and a resident protested the proposal.
Geoffrey Arce asked the commission for an amendment to the existing "country" residential zoning to mixed use at 3766 E. Robinson St. Arce planned to install a repair and sales lot for dirt bikes, motorcycles and jet skis, he told the commissioners. He also intended to build a house on the property.
His proposal included eight gravel customer parking lots, despite an existing requirement that all off-street parking must be paved or offer concrete surfaces.
The lot and vehicles would be set back from the road, and Arce said no vehicles would be placed near the road for sale.
Arce assured commissioners noise would not be a problem with only one or two customers each week who might test drive vehicles.
Neighbor to the property Larry Toothaker said the area is zoned for country residential and it should stay that way.
"We built in 1997 and we considered the noise and the sources of noise," he said of Tinker Air Force Base air traffic and distant traffic on Robinson Street. "We agreed to it, we understood it. It was there when we bought it. We did not agree to and do not agree to the testing of these motorcycles and those engines ... loud, noisy."
Toothaker suggested Arce take his proposed business to areas of Norman that are zoned commercial. Commissioner Dave Boeck said he shared Toothaker's concerns.
"It's one thing to go from agricultural (zoning) to residential or medium density residential," he said. "I just don't see the mixed (use) as being the appropriate kind of rezoning to fit into the neighborhood."
Commissioner Erin Williford was also not in favor.
"I feel like it's not fully thought out and prepared," she said. "And I think the impacts on the neighbors, I agree with them. The noise was always there when they bought the home, but it's another thing to bring in noise to the neighbors that were already there. I don't think that's right or fair to people who are there already."
Commissioners voted unanimously against the proposal.
Student housing approved
New student housing could be coming to Norman after the commission approved a special use application for multi-family housing units at 430 S. James Garner Ave.
Peter Petromilli plans to redevelop a parking lot into an apartment building, with each of the six units including four bedrooms. The area is home to student housing developments, but Petromilli said he believes as the area changes through codes and design, the units could attract young professionals instead of students.
The proposal fell within the Center City Form Based Code, staff reports state. Commissioners learned the property also offered 24 parking spaces, the minimum requirement according to city ordinance. No protests were filed.
Commissioners approved the request unanimously; it will be forwarded to the Norman City Council for consideration.
Mindy Wood covers City Hall news and notable court cases for The Transcript. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-416-4420.