NORMAN — Developers of a proposed apartment complex in northwest Norman say the project is aimed at young professionals, people who can afford to pay rents of $800 to $1,200 a month.
The 235-unit, three-story complex planned for Tecumseh Road and 36th Avenue NW is “definitely high-end, a quality project,” said Sean Rieger, who represents OSOI Tecumseh Development and NE Development.
Units are designed more like townhouses, with enclosed garages, he said.
Apartment interiors will feature 9-foot-high ceilings, crown molding and wood laminate floors. The exterior will feature brick, stucco and decorative stone. Amenities will include a clubhouse, swimming pool, fitness center, business center and kitchen, Rieger said.
The apartments would be on the west side of 36th Avenue NW, south of Tecumseh Road.
More than 800 residents who live in the Cascade and Castle Rock neighborhoods, just west of the project, signed a petition opposing a change in land use and rezoning from commercial to medium-density residential.
The petition notes that residents prefer commercial development of the 10-acre tract. More than 100 of the residents appeared at Tuesday's city council meeting.
In a 5-3 vote, and following several hours of debate, the council approved the land use and rezoning change. Voting against the changes were Mayor Cindy Rosenthal and council members Roger Gallagher and Chad Williams.
Rosenthal said she couldn't ignore “the level of protest” from residents and felt it was “shortsighted” to take a major commercial intersection off the market.
“This is the last prime commercial corner remaining in Norman, and the city lives and dies by sales tax revenue,” Rosenthal said.
Resident Christie Remualdo said the area needs commercial properties nearby, such as gas stations and other service-type businesses.
“We feel so strongly it should remain commercial. We're asking for your help. Please keep it commercial,” Remualdo said.
Jon Williford said families are worried about light pollution and noise, as well as an increase in crime and traffic problems, as a result of a heavily populated apartment complex.
Rieger said developers have gone to great lengths to provide buffers between the complex and the residential neighborhoods, with fencing, screening and anywhere from 200 to 500 feet of green space between the apartment buildings and the backs of houses.
Williams, who represents the ward in which the property is located, said he didn't think the project was the “best and highest” use of the land.
“This is not about apartments and apartment-type people. This is about the rezoning. Rezoning is not a right, it's a privilege. They're asking for a privilege,” he said.
Gallagher said an apartment complex “changes the atmosphere of a neighborhood. It just does. If someone were to drop one down 50 to 100 feet from my backyard, I wouldn't like it.”
Councilman Robert Castleberry said he asked developers and real estate agents about the property before Tuesday's meeting.
“I thought it was a very valuable piece of commercial property that I hated to take out. But every one of them told me it's not.”
University North Park Addition, on the east of Interstate 35, is where commercial development is going to occur, he said. “All you're going to get at this location is a strip mall.”
Residents have legitimate concerns about the project, Councilman Tom Kovach said, “but in the final analysis, I think this is better for the neighborhood.”