With the recent passage of the $43 million transportation bond package in Norman – a proposal that I personally supported – the topic of urban sprawl has been thrust into the spotlight for community discussion. Over the decades since World War II, most cities in the United States have encouraged and even mandated growth that tends to be very low density, automobile dependant, and ever-stretching into what was once wide open country fields. This type of growth has proven to be extremely expensive and unsustainable for many cities to maintain, yet it is still the dominant pattern of growth for just about any city in the Western Hemisphere.
This bond package, consisting of eight projects, will mostly address problems that are a culmination of the issue of continued outward growth, over several decades, on all edges of the urban area of the city of Norman. Generally, I have found that public infrastructure improvements – like the widening of roads – tends to be the last piece when it comes to sprawl. To me, this means that we must get ahead of this exact type of unsustainable growth before new developments begin. If we fail to do this, it is very likely that we will be asked to approve another round of infrastructure projects in 6-8 years to address the negative effects of more outward expansion.
Another event that relates to this focus on responsibly growing cities is the recent series of public discussions on the future of high density development in certain areas of Norman – Downtown and Campus Corner to name few. The outcome of these discussions will determine what kind of options and alternatives will be available to counter the outward, low density growth that dominates our current zoning ordinances (which date back to 1950’s).
This article is meant to be a brief summary of a what we are dealing with as a community when it comes to the affects of growth, and my hope is that more people will get involved in how these decisions are made. Together we can be more sustainable.
Stephen Tyler Holman
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