The Ardmore planning and zoning board has approved a text amendment that would allow for a new level of development that could bring much-needed housing to the city. Now, the amendment awaits an appearance before the city commission.
The amendment would allow for planned development units on two-acre lots rather than five-acre lots. The city used to have a two-acre rule, and expanded it to five acres because of developmental concerns.
“We were getting a lot of requests back then and there was no way to do a PUD because of zoning,” said Nick Diaz, director of developmental services.
The board approved the amendment with a caveat: Each request would go before the board and city to determine whether the planned unit development (PUD) would be beneficial to the city. And it would be ruled by the underlying density of the area. The density, for example, in an area zoned RS-6 would mean one residence per 6,000 square feet. Common areas could allow for a residence per 3,000 feet with a common area to fill out the remainder of the requirements to 6,000 feet in a PUD.
Diaz said the two-acre rule is not unique to Ardmore. Other cities without a rule lower than 5 acres are established in communities such as Norman, Edmond, Durant, Midwest City and Lawton.
“Some have two-acre rules and some have no minimum,” he said.
The difference in a two-acre rule would mean that where there would be eight houses on a lot, there could be 10 with a common area.
Developer Joel Wisian and his wife Amy of Reunion Homes are champions of the two-acre rule. Both believe an amendment would allow an increase in much-needed housing in Ardmore.
“There is a need for new housing, and we have an extremely strained housing market,” Joel Wisian said. “One of the primary reasons is a lack of developable land.”
Wisian attributed the situation to geographical boundaries, developing in flood areas and city infrastructure. And with the cost of development falling on developers, the Wisians, like other developers, search to find ways to make the process both beneficial to developers and the city. It was that process that led them to infill development.
“It takes land that has roads, water, sewer and underdeveloped vacant lots and put in residential units,” Wisian said. “The problem is a lot of these pieces of land are very expensive.”
In pushing for the two-acre text amendment, Wisian says the current code has fallen behind in the past 40 years and has not kept up with developmental theory. Every 20 years, the code is due for a complete overhaul, which is due in 2015. But there have been no major overhauls since 1975. Both Diaz and Wisian agree the reason the two-acre rule exists is, in part, due to the influx of out-of-town developing. But Wisian says the time has come to catch up with other cities in Oklahoma to become more competitive.
“We are asking to amend the old archaic code and become more competitive,” he said. “Ardmore competes for developers, and we are asking for Ardmore to become more competitive.
“Ardmore is growing and will continue to grow. And our services will be constrained if we do not continue to develop.”
Wisian also said he supports the checks and balances proposed with the amendment, which would call for each project to come before the board and commission for approval.
“What we are doing is casting the net of opportunity,” he said. “We can keep the opportunities we like and throw the one out we don’t like.”
Wisian said PUD projects near the downtown area would also serve to benefit growth in that area and place a stream of revenue and commerce within walking distance of businesses.
“We have really good momentum about downtown,” he said. “We have influential folks that want to develop downtown, but you need permanent residents that live within three, five, seven minutes of downtown. We need more for sale properties, and this is an opportunity to buy, own and live downtown.”
The PUDs also promote community, Amy Wisian said. She said Pocket Neighborhoods would be a developing tool, which would allow for the city to follow trends in other parts of the country.
“It is a trend that is sweeping the nation,” she said. “It has been successful in the towns where they have been built.”
Wisian said there has also been a lack of housing built in the southwest part of Ardmore, and a text amendment would help spur additional development to meet the city’s needs.
“We are not asking them to build, we are asking to build creatively,” she said.