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Mayor Discusses UNP Expansion, Supports City Manager - June 10, 2018

This week has been largely devoted to the issue of the UNP TIF and the proposed expansion of the development of nearly 200 acres, mostly undeveloped. The UNP TIF has been a partnership between the city and the OU Foundation, the developers and the taxing jurisdictions since 2006. This proposal includes new urbanist housing such as compact detached, apartments, lofts and other mixed uses. It also includes office and industrial space.
This is all significantly different from the original UNP TIF, which is predominately retail, hotels and restaurants. The part of the proposal that has garnered the most response and criticism is the entertainment/arena portion of the development. Both the arena itself and the financing mechanism have been questioned.
At three meetings recently, the new UNP proposal was discussed. They all focused more on the development than the financing. Tuesday evening at our council conference session, we met for nearly three hours and quizzed Jeff Gunning, chief architect planner of the proposal; Shawn Rieger, a lawyer for the foundation; and our own legal consultant, Emily Pomeroy, who specializes in this kind of development.
After a brief presentation, the council asked many questions about stormwater mitigation plans, Wi-Fi, multimodal transportation offerings, a possible site for a new school, details about senior and affordable housing, green space, walkability and potential traffic improvements. There also were numerous inquiries about the arena, plaza, types of restaurants and entertainment options.
There is concern about cannibalization of other businesses in Norman and its impacts on other commercial areas. A major difference in this part of the UNP is that it is not designed as a retail area. The only retail allowed is that related to the entertainment area.
Wednesday morning, Guy Patton, with the OU Foundation, and Joe Castiglione, representing OU Athletics, addressed the Mayor’s Roundtable, which is made up of community leaders from a variety of Norman organizations. They heard more about why OU and their athletic department are so interested in a new arena, Lloyd Noble being over 40 years old.
A new state-of-the-art facility next to I-35 gives the university and our community access to a wider audience of participants for basketball and other activities, such as concerts, graduations and high school sporting events. It also puts the arena events in the heart of the entertainment zone.
The university still has many needs for Lloyd Noble. This is not a new idea but one that has been discussed by OU for a number of years. It is not hard to see why the university and athletic department might want to build there. So, why would the city and the taxing jurisdictions want to invest public money in such a development? It is the same reason you and I might want to invest our money: to make more money.
The question is a huge one. Will this development make us more money to continue to provide services to our residents? I like the idea and have had significant feedback that this is the kind of project our millennial
population desires. We are losing this younger, educated population.
However, the council’s final decision must rest on whether there is sufficient evidence that this project will improve the outlook for our general fund and the general funds of other taxing jurisdictions: Cleveland County, Norman Public Schools, MNTC, the PLS and the Health Department.
Finally, on Wednesday night, the City Planning Commission considered an amendment to the zoning of the property that would allow for entertainment district. After a presentation, some discussion and public input, they approved the proposal 5-1.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the men and women that serve on this very important commission. They meet every month and are tasked with making recommendations to the city council about every zoning, platting and land use change in the city as development occurs. The council relies heavily on their knowledge and expertise.
I also would like to address something that occurred earlier this week and was covered in The Transcript. The article contained information from an “anonymous source,” which I feel was inappropriate to print. It was highly sensitive information and hurtful in nature.
The article discussed the employment status of both our city manager and a city department head. It discussed personnel matters that were highly confidential.
However, the action of The Transcript was not nearly as grievous as the behavior of the anonymous source — a public “official” who is quoted as revealing information discussed at an executive session. Such information is confidential, and it is both a charter and ethics code violation for council members to disclose it.
Personally, I strongly support Mr. Lewis, who has worked capably and hard for this community since 2007. Our staff is professional and dedicated. Yes, of course we have issues and weaknesses, but the place for personnel evaluations is not on the front page of the local newspaper. It should be done in a professional, confidential manner.

This week has been largely devoted to the issue of the UNP TIF and the proposed expansion of the development of nearly 200 acres, mostly undeveloped. The UNP TIF has been a partnership between the city and the OU Foundation, the developers and the taxing jurisdictions since 2006. This proposal includes new urbanist housing such as compact detached, apartments, lofts and other mixed uses. It also includes office and industrial space.

This is all significantly different from the original UNP TIF, which is predominately retail, hotels and restaurants. The part of the proposal that has garnered the most response and criticism is the entertainment/arena portion of the development. Both the arena itself and the financing mechanism have been questioned.

At three meetings recently, the new UNP proposal was discussed. They all focused more on the development than the financing. Tuesday evening at our council conference session, we met for nearly three hours and quizzed Jeff Gunning, chief architect planner of the proposal; Shawn Rieger, a lawyer for the foundation; and our own legal consultant, Emily Pomeroy, who specializes in this kind of development.

After a brief presentation, the council asked many questions about stormwater mitigation plans, Wi-Fi, multimodal transportation offerings, a possible site for a new school, details about senior and affordable housing, green space, walkability and potential traffic improvements. There also were numerous inquiries about the arena, plaza, types of restaurants and entertainment options.

There is concern about cannibalization of other businesses in Norman and its impacts on other commercial areas. A major difference in this part of the UNP is that it is not designed as a retail area. The only retail allowed is that related to the entertainment area.

Wednesday morning, Guy Patton, with the OU Foundation, and Joe Castiglione, representing OU Athletics, addressed the Mayor’s Roundtable, which is made up of community leaders from a variety of Norman organizations. They heard more about why OU and their athletic department are so interested in a new arena, Lloyd Noble being over 40 years old.

A new state-of-the-art facility next to I-35 gives the university and our community access to a wider audience of participants for basketball and other activities, such as concerts, graduations and high school sporting events. It also puts the arena events in the heart of the entertainment zone.

The university still has many needs for Lloyd Noble. This is not a new idea but one that has been discussed by OU for a number of years. It is not hard to see why the university and athletic department might want to build there. So, why would the city and the taxing jurisdictions want to invest public money in such a development? It is the same reason you and I might want to invest our money: to make more money.

The question is a huge one. Will this development make us more money to continue to provide services to our residents? I like the idea and have had significant feedback that this is the kind of project our millennial

population desires. We are losing this younger, educated population.

However, the council’s final decision must rest on whether there is sufficient evidence that this project will improve the outlook for our general fund and the general funds of other taxing jurisdictions: Cleveland County, Norman Public Schools, MNTC, the PLS and the Health Department.

Finally, on Wednesday night, the City Planning Commission considered an amendment to the zoning of the property that would allow for entertainment district. After a presentation, some discussion and public input, they approved the proposal 5-1.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the men and women that serve on this very important commission. They meet every month and are tasked with making recommendations to the city council about every zoning, platting and land use change in the city as development occurs. The council relies heavily on their knowledge and expertise.

I also would like to address something that occurred earlier this week and was covered in The Transcript. The article contained information from an “anonymous source,” which I feel was inappropriate to print. It was highly sensitive information and hurtful in nature.

The article discussed the employment status of both our city manager and a city department head. It discussed personnel matters that were highly confidential.

However, the action of The Transcript was not nearly as grievous as the behavior of the anonymous source — a public “official” who is quoted as revealing information discussed at an executive session. Such information is confidential, and it is both a charter and ethics code violation for council members to disclose it.

Personally, I strongly support Mr. Lewis, who has worked capably and hard for this community since 2007. Our staff is professional and dedicated. Yes, of course we have issues and weaknesses, but the place for personnel evaluations is not on the front page of the local newspaper. It should be done in a professional, confidential manner.