TulsaNow forum on land use planning


Wednesday night's TulsaNow candidate forum on land use planning was a wonderful event. 13 of the 26 council candidates were present to respond to a presentation on land use planning as we do it now, and as we might do it in the future. The opening slideshow, presented by city planner Duane Cuthbertson and developer Jamie Jamieson, featured compelling images of city scenes good, bad, and ugly. Jamie, who is the developer of the Village at Central Park, made the point that development is not the problem; the real problem is the patterns of development. We need to be willing to do development in a different way than it's been done for the past 50 years.

Candidates, including some not in attendance, submitted written responses to five questions on the topic.

The Tulsa Whirled coverage , headlined "Group focuses on city zoning", missed one of the key points of the evening. TulsaNow points out that there are various methods of land use planning, of which zoning is only one, albeit the predominant approach in the US since World War II. Tulsa's land use planning process is broken, and zoning, which requires strict and arbitrary segregation of different land uses, very different from the ways in which cities evolved before World War II. Our process generates confrontations between homeowners and developers. For example, a change in land use which might be beneficial is fought because the zoning change opens the door for other uses which might be disruptive.

It was clear that the concepts under discussion were new to most of the candidates, even to some of the incumbent councilors. Some impressions:

Most of the candidates were at least open to the ideas presented, and many gave answers that suggested they had thought about some of these notions before, particularly Medlock, Self, Mautino, Huston, and Neal. Huston expressed the most enthusiasm for the vision presented but said he didn't know to what extent the Council had the power to make it happen. Medlock called for a flexible, comprehensible, comprehensive master plan that would be "stuck to". He said it should be hard for zoning attorneys to make a living in this town.

Eagleton made the excellent point that whether you have a new plan or an old plan doesn't matter when you have Councilors who won't honor the plan. Eagleton also emphasized respect for property rights and sounded an appropriate note of caution, reminding that layering new restrictions on property owners can be considered a taking under our Bill of Rights.

When asked if the current system was friendly to homeowners or developers, Medlock said the pendulum had swung too far in the direction of developers, and most candidates agreed, except for Baker who refused to answer and just said there was opportunity for improvement, and Neal, pointing to two recent TMAPC decisions that favored the neighborhood over the applicant, said it depends on who you ask. (Neal answered the question in terms of outcomes, but the question was really about the fairness of the process.)

Larry Self wants to transplant downtown Minneapolis to downtown Tulsa. Joe Conner called for a ban on political contributions from individuals bringing zoning cases before the Council.

Baker exhibited his bureaucratic mindset in all his answers, but I'll save that for another entry.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 30, 2004 8:02 AM.

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Tom Baker: A bureaucrat to the core is the next entry in this blog.

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