Property rights change could impact tax vote

TulsaSkyline3Analysis:  The Tulsa World is reporting today (Monday, Sept. 9) that city officials have drafted an ordinance amendment that would restrict rights of property owners within the core business district.

The story by Kevin Canfield notes, “Under the proposal, a property owner wishing to turn land within the IDL (Intercity Dispersal Loop) into a surface parking lot would need approval from the Board of Adjustment.”  Click here to read the Tulsa World story.

This proposal, which must be approved by the City Council, enforces a trendy notion that private ownership and development must increasingly come under the authority of public officials.  The loss of individual property rights is justified by officials who note there are existing property restrictions and this is just a “reasonable” addition.

The goal is to create more high-rise parking structures and a denser downtown district.  It is a popular planning hypothesis that American cities must become more concentrated.  Planners don’t like yards and gardens and the general suburban lifestyle.  They object to market forces of free enterprise and individual choices provided in preference to concentrated camps of citizens which are easier to manage and organize for public services.

The proposed change “would allow demolition when a building is determined to be unsafe or the property owner can show the city that he has a construction permit and zoning approval to replace the demolished structure with a new building.”

TulsaDtwn1Consider for a moment if you owned a building under these regulations.  Maybe it needs repairs beyond your ability to finance and you have yet to find a willing buyer.  Under this rule, an owner is motivated to let the building decay until it is “unsafe” rather than clean the land for a buyer.  Further, if an owner is prohibited from selling parking that restriction deprives her or him from profit – a “taking” by force of government.

To a prospective buyer, this adds expense as they must first demolish and remove the debris to build anew.

“Maintaining continuity of the streetscape and having a pedestrian-oriented, vibrant downtown – that’s the end goal” of the proposed ordinance change, city Planning Director Dawn Warrick told the Tulsa World… “just expanding their purview over one more kind of application,” she added.

One of the elected officials driving the density concept is City Councilor Blake Ewing who owns commercial drinking and dining establishments downtown and has often pushed for changes in policy to entice mixed-lifestyle “young professionals” into the neighborhood and supported publicly funded infrastructure near his businesses.

TulsaDtwnEwing won office as a Republican while advertising to “hipsters,” endorsed Democrat Kathy Taylor for mayor and is not expected to run for another term on the Council.  Ewing was not quoted in the story, but his previous comments were included that “the ordinance was intended to empower the city to preserve historic buildings after decades of watching its skyline erode.”

Ewing may be registered Republican, but his comments reflect a typical Leftist.  The skyline is not owned by elected city officials or their staff; it represents multiple individual and corporate investments.  The greatest barriers to development in downtown Tulsa are taxes and fees with ever expanding permitting and regulation requirements.

The story notes the draft proposal will be vetted by 10 organizations that deal with local development – including the Tulsa Development Authority, the Tulsa Stadium Trust and private building associations – before it is presented to the public at the Sept. 18 Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC) meeting, Warrick said.  Click here for the TMAPC site.

“Every effort is being made to make sure that anyone interested has access to the information and a way to engage in the process,” Warrick told the Tulsa World.

A town hall might be a better format to fully inform city developers – in an evening rather than a 1:30 pm TAMPC meeting – the only “public” event planned.  Click here to read the ordinance.

TulsaDawnDoes this ordinance risk voter anger?  If voters come to believe officials are overreaching, they could vote no on the “Improve Our Tulsa” package Nov. 12.

The City Council proposed $918.7 million local tax program is offered as an capital improvements package, but nearly $35.4 million is identified as “Planning and Economic Development.”

In town hall meetings leading up to finalization of the package, some attending questioned how planning and economic development can be “capital  expenses.”  Capitol expenses are commonly considered roads, bridges, and buildings.   It is a very recent interpretation by officials to include automobiles, buses and other “rolling stock” as capital rather than as operating expenses.    Given the ever expanding definition of “capital” it may not be a big jump to include planning and the promotion of plans to impose development restrictions on private property owners – downtown and in selected neighborhoods.

The “Improve Our Tulsa” package consists of two propositions:

One proposition would authorize general obligation (GO) bonds in the amount of $355 million to fund designated street and bridge improvement projects. GO bonds are municipal bonds secured by the City’s pledge to use property tax revenues to repay bond holders.

TulsaSkylineChandlerPkThe other proposition would extend 1.1 percent of the current 1.167 percent sales tax. Voter approval would extend the sales tax until $563.7 million is generated for designated capital improvement projects, which is projected to take from six to six-and-a-half years.  This is the package that includes the economic development expenses.

For more information on Improve Our Tulsa, click here for the City Council web site.

On that web site, individual City Council email is provided and other helpful information.  Your comments are welcome below or by email to

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