NORMAN — Chris Elsey and his brother want to build a very high density apartment complex in Norman within walking distance of the University of Oklahoma campus.
The Elsey brothers are developers who specialize in high density dwellings close to campus and other amenities to promote walkability. Hailing out of Manhatten, Kan., the brothers have experienced some success in this area.
In fact, they are building in Stillwater right now.
Norman has not been so welcoming.
Part of the problem is that Norman does not have an ordinance or city code to deal with very high density dwellings. In addition to the Elsey brothers’ request, there is at least one other application pending in the city at this time, and there have been other high density inquiries, Norman Planning Director Susan Connors said.
To that end, the city has established a series of six public meetings to learn more about high density and discuss what the community wants as a vision for Norman’s future. Monday night the first meeting was an introduction to basic concepts and terminology.
“There are definitely pros and cons of density,” Connors said.
Perceived density and actual density as measured through Dwelling Units or as Floor Area Ratios are strongly affected by design and use of space. Open space, including landscaped areas, balconies or trails, for example, can make high density feel less crowded than lower density developments.
“You can create open space and still have higher densities,” Connors said.
The next public forum will be from 6:30 to 8:30 on June 28 at the Conference Building at Norman High School. Participants will be directed on the site to parking and the appropriate building, Connors said.
The next few meetings will start with information and then people will break into groups for further discussion. Those groups will be facilitated by Bob Thomas and others from the Xenia Institute.
Located in Norman, the Xenia Institute is a nonprofit, community engagement organization that teaches dialogue.
“One of the things at the forefront of dialogue is listening,” Thomas said.
He encouraged people to come prepared to set aside their personal agendas and bring a willingness to listen and learn.
“To listen deeply, that’s the challenge,” Thomas said.
Listening means no debate, no challenging the opinions of others. He said often we listen while mentally framing our own responses, and that’s not really listening.
Thomas encouraged people to practice listening before attending the June 28 forum.
“Pause before you start speaking,” he said. “That way you’re training yourself to listen.”
Even a pause of five seconds can be challenging.
“It can be an exciting process,” Thomas said. “It can be invigorating.”
Joy Hampton 366-3539 jhampton@ normantranscript.com