41st & Harvard: One for the neighborhoods


I was out of town last Thursday when the Council finally considered the 41st & Harvard rezoning request for turning a residentially zoned area into a Wal-Mart neighborhood market. (Whirled coverage begins here, continues here.) This was yet another case where the INCOG planning staff and the Planning Commission recommended a zoning change out of accord with the Comprehensive Plan. The fundamental issue here is not whether or not Wal-Mart is a good company, but, as in the 71st & Harvard and Bell's cases, whether the Comprehensive Plan is a worthless document or a way of ensuring orderly development and redevelopment, protecting property owners against arbitrary and capricious zoning.

In the end, the Council (all but David Patrick) did the right thing by voting this down 8-1, but in doing so, several of them reversed themselves on the principles that guided their 71st & Harvard decision. In the earlier case, Councilor Tom Baker claimed that it wasn't his place to question the judgment of INCOG's planning professionals or the volunteers who serve on the planning commission. But in voting against Wal-Mart, Baker went against both groups, who recommended approval.

In the short time I've been back, I haven't had time to watch the tape yet, but it will be interesting to see how some of the Councilors justify this flip-flop. Perhaps Wal-Mart needs to do a better job of spreading money around during campaign season. Wal-Mart may have grounds for a lawsuit.

I'm pleased the Council voted as they did, but I don't think they deserve a lot of praise for their decision. This should have been a slam dunk. It never should have gotten past INCOG's zoning staffers, much less the TMAPC, and the fact that it did should raise questions about the people serving in those capacities.

Tulsa's land use planning system is still broken, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 22, 2003 1:05 AM.

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