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Norman City Council denies NPD software donation, approves Food and Shelter resource center

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normancc10/12/21

Norman City Council meets Oct. 12, 2021.

The Norman City Council voted to deny software from nonprofit Operation Underground Railroad that would allow the Norman Police Department to inspect iOS devices following NPD Deputy Chief Ricky Jackson's request after conducting research on the company.

The council also approved the organization Food and Shelter's request to rezone part of its property to create a grocery store that would be available for Norman's homeless population following protests from the property's neighbors. 

This article was written in the form of a live update blog. 

10 p.m.

Assistant City Attorney Heather Poole gave a presentation on "small cells," a new technology installed on street lights, electric poles, and other structures that enhances cellular network. This increases download speeds and aids in the implementation of a 5G network.

Poole asked the council to change the language of the city's ordinance to be in accordance with the state statute on small wireless, adding the requirement of 500 feet of separate small cell poles. 

Clark asked AT&T representative Jason Constable how they are working with the electric company OG&E to place small cells on existing polls to prevent placing too many new polls. He said the relationship with OG&E has "gotten even better," with the company now allowing small cells to be placed on certain polls. 

Clark motioned to postpone this item until the council's Nov. 9 meeting due to confusion from council members regarding the language of the amendment. 

9:01 p.m.

On behalf of Food and Shelter, Rieger asked council to rezone an acre of the property owned by Food and Shelter to allow for a food and resource center and additional parking next to the transitional residential cottages. The space would cater to Norman's homeless population. 

"The mission of Food and Shelter is simple," Rieger said. "We feed people who are hungry and help those (who are) homeless make their way back home." 

The building would be set up like a grocery store, creating access to fresh fruits and vegetables for those who need them. 

Several protest letters were filed, expressing concerns from surrounding homeowners that "do not want exposure to the homeless population." The letters cited examples of car theft, harassment, physical altercations, violence, nudity, trash, traffic and increased noise levels.

"I am mentally and emotionally exhausted from having to live this way," a resident wrote. "A home should be a safe space for relaxation, family and friends, so it saddens me that our neighborhood has become such an unsafe place to live."

Behind the letters in the agenda packet is a petition of support, which gathered approval from at least one citizen in every ward. 

"It is truly a mechanism to reduce and prevent homelessness in this community, and that's something I think we all agree needs to happen," Food and Shelter Executive Director April Heiple said.

Ward 7 Councilmember Stephen Holman noted that the area in question has "served human services since the founding of this city," including Griffin Memorial Hospital and other facilities nearby. He added that he believes food and shelter are human rights and will be supporting this measure. 

Hall recognized the support for Food and Shelter, but pointed out that support was not coming from the neighbors across the street from the property. She said she hears the neighbors, and said council can discuss measures that would relieve some stress, such as adding more lighting and changing the entrance of the building to reduce traffic. 

"It takes all of us to work together to support these public-private partnerships to address the critical needs in our community," Hall said. "And I'm happy to provide support for this."

Lynn said that Food and Shelter should have never near a neighborhood in the first place, citing complaints related to drugs, crime and violence. He acknowledged the compassion Food and Shelter shows to Norman's homeless individuals, but said that compassion should also be shown toward neighbors. 

The ordinance passed 7-1, along with it's companion item, with Lynn voting against. 

9 p.m.

Council returns to session.

8:51 p.m. 

Mayor Clark announces a break.

8:20 p.m.

Joyce presented a request to rezone about 10 acres of the Trailwoods Neighborhood to allow for 42 single-family residential lots, which would be the last addition to this neighborhood. 

This request passed council unanimously. 

8:06 p.m.

In a request to amend the Norman 2025 Land Use and Transportation Plan, Ecra Systems Owner Geoffrey Arce said he wants to run his motor parts business out of this property. Arce's said his primary focus is in personal water vehicles, dirt bikes and four wheelers. 

Clark said she thinks it is important to recognized that the are Arce requested is not where a business is normally let out. She said, however, she felt the area was relevant to Arce's business, and it "seems like it would be a good fit."

There were three protest letters attached to this request, according to the agenda packet, with one expressing concerns about noise levels. Arce said that he would only be working on vehicles during normal business hours. 

The council approved Arce's request, along with it's companion item, in a vote of 6-2, with Hall and Schueler voting against. 

7:55 p.m.

Joyce presented a change in city code to allow "more commercial uses" of East Village on 12th Avenue. 

Ward 2 Councilmember Lauren Schueler said a letter of protest was missing from the agenda packet, and asks what that letter was regarding. Joyce said it was from CVS, and was "anti-marijuana." 

This ordinance passed animously. 

7:33 p.m.

Gunner Joyce of Rieger Law Group, on behalf of Jim Holmes Investments, presented the council with a rezoning request that would allow for a medical marijuana dispensary at 453 W. Gray Street. 

"The reason we're even seeing this tonight is directly related to the adverse consequences that we're seeing related to the pandemic for property owners and their ability to find tenants," Hall said.

Hall also said the agenda packet is missing a protest letter and map for this agenda item, and the only reason why she knows this is because she watched the September Planning Commission meeting on the City of Norman's YouTube page. 

Hall also said important discussions that happened at the Planning Commission meeting were missing from the meeting minutes, and requested the council "review and restore" the written transcript of this meeting. 

"Anything less is hampering our ability to fully understand the zoning applications before us and our ability to make the best decisions regarding the public health, safety and welfare of our community," Hall said. 

City Clerk Brenda Hall said the minutes given to council are "legislative minutes" due to the amount of staff it would take to take exact minutes of details from every single committee meeting. She said she is willing to work with council to find a solution that would provide them with details of what happened at committee meetings. 

This rezoning request was approved unanimously. 

7:20 p.m.

Council unanimously accepted $27,875 from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. NPD Chief Kevin Foster said this grant will be used for the department's community engagement events and updating forensic services, 

7:16 p.m.

The council unanimously denied the OUR software.

7:13 p.m.

Ward 5 Councilmember Rarchar Tortorello asks what was so "disastrous" about his findings to where Jackson would not want to accept this tool. 

Jackson said the fact that "constituents across the country" had several concerns, in addition to Studley's evidence, was enough for him to deny this offer from O.U.R.

7:10 p.m.

Ward 6 Councilmember Elizabeth Foreman asked if NPD could find similar software through another organization. Jackson said the department could, and this software was not developed by O.U.R.

Ward 4 Councilmember Lee Hall asked if the estimated $25,000 Jackson presented to council with would cover the entire cost of the software and its licensing. Jackson said it would.

Hall thanked Jackson for using his resources to investigate OUR. 

7:04 p.m.

After being postponed at the previous meeting, Deputy Chief Ricky Jackson delivers his findings of Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) following Ward 1 Councilmember Brandi Studley requested based on her findings of the organizations' history.  

During council's Oct. 13 meeting, Studley noted that OUR likens its name to the Underground Railroad, a series of safe points that escaped slaves used to travel toward freedom in the 1800s, and compares itself to the abolitionists that advocated against slavery throughout U.S. history. 

Jackson said he appreciated Studley brought this before council, and requested the item be pulled from the agenda. 

"I could not completely feel comfortable going forward with this organization knowing that there are some concerns out there could be true," Jackson said. 

p.m.

The consent docket has been approved unanimously. Council now moves on to non-consent items. 

6:41 p.m.

Council was approved the month of October as Code Compliance Month unanimously and LGBTQ History Month 7-1, with Ward 3 Councilmember Kelly Lynn voting against the proclamation. The council also voted to unanimously define November as Native American Heritage Month.

6:30 p.m.

Meeting is called to order

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