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University North Park: Norman city council approves OU Foundation's request to withdraw UNP partnership with Norman

University North Park entertainment development

The proposed new area for the University North Park entertainment district. Norman City Council members voted at their July 24 meeting to approve the OU Foundation's request to withdraw the vote to send the UNP tax-increment-finance district proposal to a statutory review committee from the council's agenda. Sean Rieger, foundation attorney, confirmed that the foundation was withdrawing their partnership with the city of Norman and did not expect city council to review the UNP proposal any further.

At the July 24 city council meeting, the OU Foundation withdrew from a partnership with Norman to consider building an arena on foundation-owned University North Park land — an abrupt end to a drawn-out process.

At Tuesday night’s full-house Norman City Council meeting, Mayor Lynne Miller informed the public that the OU Foundation had requested via email that a notable resolution be removed from the agenda. The resolution sought to send the UNP project plan to a statutory review committee — a long-awaited step that would have allowed the committee to give recommendations to council regarding the project plan. Many saw this step as crucial to the project’s success.

Foundation attorney Sean Rieger then took the podium to clarify that the foundation is formally withdrawing from its partnership with the city. He said the foundation is no longer trying to develop the UNP land by pushing a TIF through city council — one of the project’s most controversial aspects. 

“It was our request this afternoon that . . .  you withdraw what is your application for the TIF to go forward,” Rieger said. “It’s been a long process. It’s been a process that has garnered discussions, obviously at an extraordinary level. And we appreciate that. We’re glad that this has garnered the passion that it has . . . But it’s clear that this process, to go through to the statutory TIF committee, is without consensus.”

Miller asked Rieger to clarify that the foundation didn’t expect council to consider the project further, and he confirmed this.

Council then voted 5 - 3 to comply with the foundation’s request and take the item off the agenda.

Council members Bill Hickman, Sereta Wilson and Joe Carter voted against the motion. All three said they wanted a formal vote on the measure instead of a withdrawal. Carter said a vote would provide “finality” to the issue, and Wilson said a vote would be good for the record.

“I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not support this plan, and I would prefer to vote on it,” Wilson said. This statement earned her heavy applause from the crowd of Normanites attending the meeting.

However, Council Member Robert Castleberry said if the foundation didn’t want to go through the process of seeing the resolution voted down, then neither did he. Judging by the votes, a majority of council shared his sentiment.

Though the foundation’s partnership with the city has ended, Rieger said advancing the UNP area is still a priority.

“We will certainly continue efforts to see how we develop this land,” Rieger said. “The land doesn’t go away. The need to develop it doesn’t go away. The interest in the land doesn’t go away.”  

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