PlaniTulsa was approved by the Tulsa City Council tonight as a “comprehensive plan” for development over the strenuous objections of over a dozen concerned citizens.
PlaniTulsa purports to address all planning and zoning and to “reshape fundamental aspects” of the private land use within the city. After three years of meetings, and countless council requests, PlaniTulsa amends the existing master plan for development. Supporters of the plan claim it will be a more cohesive approach than simply going street by street with PUDs or requests for re-zoning. PlaniTulsa is supposed to bring Tulsa together as a community. However, of Tulsa’s 325,000 citizens only a few thousand have participated in the meetings.
In the Thursday July 22, 2010 meeting of the City Council, Howard Ferrell, a private citizen and resident of Chairman Rick Wescott’s district came forward with a request for the PlaniTulsa plan. The corridor for the land from 61st street to 91st street along highway 75 to Union has been zoned for a “Mixed Use” corridor. This means that the land can be used for anything from prisons to pig farms to recycling and waste centers. Mr. Ferrell expressed an extreme dislike for this and questioned whether or not the planners had ever been out to this corridor to see that it is one of the gateways into Tulsa.
Mr. Ferrell pleaded with the council to do what the PlaniTulsa plan calls for in such a case; which is to authorize a “Small Area Study” and to change the zoning to a more residential friendly type. Theron Warlick of the City Planning department confirmed that the Council would need to approve a Small Area Study and that the Mayor would have to fund it, as it is an administrative area. Mr. Ferrell asked for the Council to hold off on approving the PlaniTulsa plan until this parcel could be fixed. He said he was not aware of this problem until recently. Mr. Ferrell said that many of the residents in the area were also caught unawares because the statute for notification only requires notification to residents who live within 300 ft. of the corridor, but that nearly all the lots are large 1+ acre lots or are agricultural in nature and hence almost none of the residents lived in the required warn area.
Following Mr. Ferrell, Kay Price also spoke on the problems with this corridor. Along with her were a dozen more residents of the area who also had not been able to make meetings or were not warned about the problem. Mr. Warlick rose again and reminded the council that this area of land had been zoned back in 2005 and that PlaniTulsa was not meant to change any existing zoning, only to revise the zoning code which appears to support Mrs. Price’s argument that if PlaniTulsa was approved the problems of these citizens would be “set in stone.” After several minutes of consulting with the council attorney, it was decided that this issue could be revisited as a Small Area Study after the measure was approved and the motion to approve PlaniTulsa passed.
Before PlaniTulsa passed, several folks got up to praise the City, the planners, the workers who have been putting together the plan, and other for their work and efforts. Two speakers called PlaniTulsa “Tulsa’s Plan” and vouched that every citizen in Tulsa had a hand in the creation of it which is untrue on its face and from the opponents who spoke at the meeting.
After the approval, the affected frustrated and unhappy citizen’s group met out in the hallway and discussed ways to keep in touch and how to make sure their grievances would be addressed. Led by Kay Price, a woman who claims over 30 years experience with zoning and with the city, the group agreed to meet again to go over what to do next.
About the author:
Aaron Sheppard is a long time believer in smaller government and responsible use of tax dollars. As a former City of Tulsa employee who worked in the Finance Department assisting in production of the Annual City Budget from 2001 to 2004, he experienced first hand the differences in what happens behind the scenes and what makes the news. He has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Phoenix and has worked in the private sector since 2004. Sheppard may be reached at email@example.com for news tips. Comments on this report are welcome below.