71st and Harvard rezoning approved


[To keep this from filling the home page, I've put most of this report in the extended entry. Click the link after the next paragraph to read the whole thing.]

Just a quick note to let you all know that the Council approved F&M Bank's zoning application by a 5-4 vote -- Joe Williams, David Patrick, Tom Baker, Art Justis, and Randy Sullivan supported F&M's application and opposed the homeowners -- Chris Medlock, Sam Roop, Bill Christiansen, and Susan Neal voted against. All this despite an effective presentation by Medlock, and effective testimony from neighborhood representatives Mona Miller, Chris Denny, and Kay Bridger Riley, who did as effective a job as I've seen in making their case and remaining calm. (They were only able to speak at Councilor Medlock's behest. The public hearing was held on October 9, and this meeting was a continuance.)

Of those voting against, Medlock, Roop, and Christiansen all cited the importance of following the Comprehensive Plan -- Roop said the application should never have reached the Council, and Christiansen said that an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan should happen before a zoning change, calling the current practice "the tail wagging the dog".

Neal was not persuaded by Comprehensive Plan concerns -- she said we change the Comprehensive Plan all the time, and recently the council approved a stack of CP amendments without batting an eye. (These were probably "housekeeping amendments" occasioned by other zoning cases decided contrary to the Comprehensive Plan.) Her rationale for voting no was that a promise had been made by the previous administration, when 71st was widened, that the corner would remain residential, and her recent experience with Vision 2025 made it important to her that public commitments should be honored for the sake of public trust. (As you'll see below, however, she didn't deem it important to honor the public and legal commitment made regarding protests of zoning change, ensuring that the change would succeed despite her vote against.) She commended the project itself as an "excellent infill project".

Justis was derogatory toward Chris Medlock, saying he had words to say that he probably shouldn't, and referring to Medlock's masterful presentation as a "show" and "posturing". Justis frequently left the room without giving a reason.

Sullivan said he lived closer to this intersection that a lot of the protestants. He scolded Medlock and the neighborhood leaders for personally attacking the INCOG staffers and city attorneys. They did no such thing -- they merely took issue with the decisions made by these functionaries. This comment, echoed by Baker and Justis, seemed designed to give the newspaper a quote to use in mischaracterizing Medlock's argument.

Sullivan also said this, regarding INCOG's recommendation on the neighborhood protest: "Maybe I'm under a blanket or under a tub -- I don't know what the recommendation is.... I don't think the fact that I'm under a barrel is relevant." At another point he scolded Medlock for referring to him by name: "Don't quote me as agreeing when I have no idea what you're doing."

Baker's rationale for supporting the zoning change boiled down to this: The TMAPC recommended it. We tell the TMAPC appointees when they appear for reappointment that we appreciate and support them. So when they make a recommendation, we should support it. Baker also scolded Medlock for his zeal and the tone of his comments, and referred to the neighborhood representatives as a "cast of characters".

Patrick said it would be ideal to amend the Comprehensive Plan first, but doing it the other way around is the way we've been doing it for years. Christiansen replied that two wrongs don't make a right.

But that wasn't the only vote of importance. Before the vote on the rezoning itself, the council also voted, 6-3, to accept INCOG staff's recommendation and throw out the protests of the neighborhood as invalid because of various technicalities, meaning that only a simple majority would be needed for approval. The same people who voted later for the rezoning also supported this measure, as did Susan Neal. The clever boys at INCOG and the City Attorney's office came up with three pretexts for disposing of a timely and valid protest, sufficient to require a supermajority of 7 councilors to approve the rezoning:

(1) Initial submissions of some protest cards were questionable because both spouses didn't sign, or because the owner printed instead of signing his name, or because, if the house was owned by a revocable trust, the owner failed to add the word "trustee" to his signature.

(2) Although the homeowners submitted an amended protest to answer any possible quibble about signatures, INCOG ruled that petitions submitted after three days before the TMAPC hearing would be ignored as untimely. This is despite the clear language of Title 42, Section 1703 E. of Tulsa Revised Ordinances, that protests must be submitted three days in advance of the City Council hearing, which began on October 9. This is also despite the fact that Pat Boulden, Director of the Land Use and Real Property Department of the City Attorney's Office, advised the Kay Bridger Riley, attorney for the neighborhood, that three days before the Council hearing was the deadline, and he had conveyed the same information to Council Secretary Wendy Martin, to help her answer questions from the public. Boulden acknowledged that he had said this, but was persuaded that his interpretation was incorrect by Alan Jackere, also of the City Attorney's office, who used Connecticut and Minnesota precedents as authority for his position. (Jackere was not present for the meeting.)

(3) Wayne Alberty, Jay Stump's replacement as director of land planning services for INCOG, decided to count all of the common area and private street within Guier Woods as non-protesting parcels, even though only a tiny percentage of these parcels are within the 300' radius. This raised the total acreage against which 50% would be calculated, and combined with the fudging of deadlines, pretty much insured that the protest would not succeed.

By the way, Mr. Alberty was chairman of the Tulsa County Board of Adjustment when it approved the special exception for Bell's new roller coaster, a decision later overturned in district court by Judge David Peterson.

Another key vote, early in the proceedings, would have cut off debate and prevented Councilor Medlock from making his well-reasoned presentation. This parliamentary maneuver in support of keeping the public and the Council in the dark was supported by Baker, Patrick, Justis, and Sullivan.

This will go on to district court, no doubt, and because of the Council's decision, the burden of proof will be on the homeowners, and the City legal department will be effectively working for the interests of F&M Bank.

That's all for now.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 31, 2003 2:06 AM.

71st & Harvard on the Council agenda tonight was the previous entry in this blog.

DNS weirdness is the next entry in this blog.

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