July 24, 2012
An ordinance requiring ‘buffer zones’ to be maintained around streams and ditches within areas that fall within the Lake Thunderbird watershed was adopted by the Norman City Council last summer. These buffer zones are strips of land, usually 100 feet wide, alongside a stream called Water Quality Protection Zones. Development is generally prohibited in the Water Quality Protection Zones. In some cases, property owners may get a variance that allows other engineered options to be implemented that protects the water in place of the 100 feet buffer.
Many property owners opposed this ordinance saying that it was unfair in the manner of implementation and asserted that is constituted an unconstitutional takings of property.
Here is one example;
Note: The City of Norman did fail to notify 15,000 property owners, which would be affected by the ordinances as required by law. Link
Another example; (click on images to read the entire letters)
Now, over a year out from the adoption of the ordinance, complaints are surfacing.
July 23, 2012 The Norman Transcript/AP
Some say the Water Quality Protection Zone regulations are overly burdensome for small land owners.
Cindy and Mike Milligan, owners of Milligan Trucking, believe the WQPZ creates a “land grab” that allows government – in this case the city of Norman – to “steal” their land by mandating that a protection zone be unmowed, undeveloped vegetation.
. . .For a small business owner, compliance with the regulations as can be costly, and the additional requirements of the city pushed them to their limit. While applying for a building permit to erect an office on their site, the Milligans were told the land had never been platted and, even though they were not subdividing, it must be platted. There were several city requirements they would need to meet in order to move forward including the WQPZ. Adjacent industry was grandfathered in, but their land was a “new plat” and the zone applied to them.
“We have invested our lives in this,” Cindy Milligan said.
. . .And while the city was willing to apply a variance because of the small size of the land, rather than taking a 100 foot wide strip of the property, the engineered variance would require dirt removal and other expenses.
Some Norman greenbelt/buffer zone enthusiasts disagree with allowing any exception to the burdensome rule. They think that property owners who still must pay taxes on this land that they will not be permitted to use, must be disabused of the notion that they should be able to utilize all of the property that they own.
“I think it sets a bad precedent,” said Charles Wesner, Norman resident and chair of the Oklahoma Chapter of Sierra Club. “If people come in and buy property and can’t get what they want, they’ll ask for an exemption. This can continue. It may not be all of it.”
His wife, Lyntha Wesner says;
“We have an impaired lake,” she said. “It’s well documented. Scientists know it. People know it.”link
Sure. It is all about the lake and the quality of our drinking water so who can argue? Of all the possible remedies for the water quality in Lake Thunderbird, the one that just happens to take portions of people’s property that can be added to the Greenbelt is the one that seems to interest this Sierra Club couple the most.
To see why the Sierra Club is so excited about greenbelts, do a search on “Sierra Club” + “wildlands project”
From Property Rights Take a Hit, 2002;
“All across America millions of acres are being put off limits to any use by Americans. They are being declared national monuments, heritage sites, buffer zones. This is spelled out in The Wildlands Project, an environmental plan to deny Americans access and use of fifty percent of the nation’s landmass.” Link
Lyntha Wesner is a member of the state and local chapter of the Sierra Club, she was the Chair of the Norman Greenbelt Commission (until very recently) as well as participating in a number of other efforts centered around building up Norman’s green infrastructure such as the Greenbelt Task Force, Chair of Norman Area Land Conservancy, Inc., and both Citizens Committee on Norman 2020 and 2025 Plan.
Take a look at the Greenbelt Commission’s recommendations from 2005;
. . .the Greenbelt Commission recommends the Norman City Council study the option of establishing an innovative Storm Water Utility to both manage storm water run-off and provide other benefits throughout the community.
EASEMENTS FOR STORM WATER RUN-OFF AND OTHER USES PROVIDE AN EXCEPTIONAL OPPORTUNITY FOR CREATING A TRAIL SYSTEM FOR NORMAN.
. . .
Therefore, the Greenbelt Commission recommends the Norman City Council revamp the easement dedication and purchase process to include seeking wider easements, in order to create a trail system and preserve more green spaces.
. . .