Council to act on zoning protest process tonight


I sent this out to a neighborhood mailing list and thought you all would be interested in it too:

Tonight at their regular 6:00 pm meeting, the Tulsa City Council will again take up a Council Consensus expressing support for retaining and strengthening the protest provisions of the zoning code. Under Title 42, Section 1703(E), a supermajority of seven yes votes is required for a zoning change if the owners of 50% of the land within 300 feet of the affected area, or 20% of the affected area itself. These provisions are an important protection for property owners against arbitrary zoning changes, such as a blanket upzoning or commercial and industrial encroachment into our neighborhoods. This supermajority requirement has been part of state law since the 1920s, and part of Tulsa's zoning code for over 30 years. This is one little bit of leverage that homeowners have, and certain forces are working hard to take even that away from us. (More about that below.)

It is important that we get the City Council on record in support of this protection before next Tuesday's election. If a councilor is unwilling to express support for this protection before the election, he certainly won't push for it once the political pressure is gone. We need to know, before we go to the polls on Tuesday, whether these councilors support keeping this protection in place or sweeping it away. We have some leverage right now that will disappear after next Tuesday. I urge you to attend tonight's meeting, or at least contact councilors and urge their support.

Also, it was mentioned in last week's Council meeting that the City Attorney's office has issued a confidential memo that reportedly proposes an alternative consensus on this issue. Because of its confidential nature, understandably no one will go on record as to its contents. My guess, based on how the City Attorney's office has dealt with this issue so far, is that their proposal would not be in the best interests of neighborhoods. We need to urge our councilors to reject any secret consensus and to commit openly to protecting the supermajority requirement.


This issue came to light during the 71st & Harvard rezoning case last fall. You'll recall that neighboring homeowners presented a petition that met all the requirements, but INCOG staff and the City Attorney's office developed legal interpretations to disqualify signatures, to misinterpret the ordinance's deadline, and to invent different ways of calculating percentages to ensure that the petition would fall short. Six of the nine councilors voted to reject the homeowners' petition: Baker, Justis, Neal, Patrick, Sullivan, and Williams. (The first three are on the ballot Tuesday. Baker, Justis, Patrick, and Sullivan also voted to cut off debate and not allow the homeowners to present their case about how the protest petition had been mistreated.) The shenanigans of INCOG and the City Attorney's office are being challenged in court, as a violation of due process.

Back in late November, the Council directed the TMAPC to examine and recommend revisions to this ordinance to address the issues raised by the 71st & Harvard case, and to do so by January 20th, giving them two months to address the problem. This would allow the City Council to consider the recommendations and adopt any changes prior to the city primary elections, allowing the voters to hold Councilors accountable for their handling of this issue.

TMAPC missed this deadline, and they didn't even hold a work session on the topic until January 28. At that session, Mike Romig of the City Attorney's office told the TMAPC commissioners that the City Charter doesn't allow supermajority votes, and thus the ordinance is null and void, and TMAPC should recommend to the Council getting rid of the ordinance altogether. At the same session, Councilor Chris Medlock brought for TMAPC's consideration an amendment that would clearly resolve issues that were left to INCOG's interpretation in the 71st and Harvard case. The proposal would give property owners a firmer footing for organizing a protest petition. TMAPC chairman (and developer) Joe Westervelt replied with a blistering verbal attack on Medlock, the 71st & Harvard homeowners, and homeowners in general. He doesn't want homeowners to have any leverage in the zoning process at all, and he is full of bitterness and anger toward homeowners who have protested some of his developments in the past. It was this kind of behavior that led many of us to protest Westervelt's reappointment to the TMAPC in 2002.

(By the way, Westervelt is already lobbying for reappointment to the TMAPC when his term expires next year. He has contributed $500 each to Baker, Patrick, and Justis, and $300 each to Christiansen and Sullivan. I have full lists of major contributors to each candidate on my personal website at

Some councilors are trying to avoid taking a stand on this issue by pointing to the pending lawsuit and by pointing to the assertions that the ordinance is contrary to the City Charter. These excuses don't hold water.

The lawsuit is about how the existing law was applied, not about whether the law is valid or not. A Council Consensus wouldn't change any of the facts being disputed in the lawsuit, which concerns the law as it was last year and how it was applied at the time. But a Council Consensus will declare how the Councilors intend to move ahead for the future.

The charter excuse is nonsense as well. The relevant charter provision prohibits passing an ordinance with less than a majority of the full council (it takes at least five votes no matter how many councilors are present and voting), but doesn't prohibit requiring a supermajority in certain cases. And even if the current ordinance were contrary to the charter, a Council Consensus would declare the Council's intent to take any means necessary, including putting a charter change before the voters, to retain this protection against arbitrary rezoning.

A Council Consensus is not an ordinance and only requires the support of a majority of the Councilors. Unlike a resolution, it does not require the Mayor's signature.


If possible, show up to tonight's meeting and sign up to speak. You need to sign up prior to the item being called by the chairman. The meeting is in Council chambers at City Hall and it begins at 6 p.m.

Call your councilor at 596-192# or e-mail him or her at (replace # with the district number) and urge support to consider the Council Consensus. You can e-mail all the councilors via the council secretary,

The text of the ordinance can be found at the following location (paragraph 1703(E) is at the bottom of the page):

And the charter provision that the City Attorney's office says is violated by 1703(E) is Article 2, Section 6.2. You can find it online here:

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 4, 2004 2:01 PM.

Notes from the candidate forum was the previous entry in this blog.

The pre-meeting and the pre-pre-meeting is the next entry in this blog.

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