Tulsa Hills TIF bonds approved

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Thursday night the Tulsa City Council gave the green light to the Tax Increment Finance district for the Tulsa Hills retail development between 71st and 81st on the east side of US 75. Steve Roemerman and I were both there, and both of us spoke in support. Steve has a good summary of the debate and discussion.

The final vote was 8-to-Martinson. If I were Jon Kirby's campaign manager, I'd record the replay, grab some audio or quotes and use it in the final weeks of the campaign. Martinson's performance undermines any claim Martinson might make to being reasonable, pro-Tulsa-business, and pro-Tulsa-development.

Martinson claimed he just had questions that needed answers, but he undermined his credibility by asking repeatedly if there weren't better ways to spend the $16.5 million in taxpayer money involved in this project. But those tax dollars won't be generated if the development doesn't go forward. I'm sure he understood that, so why act like he didn't?

At one point, the taxpayer who would be generating those revenues was recognized -- the developer, John Collett. As the sole owner within the boundaries of the TIF, part of his property taxes (the increment over the current taxes on the land) will go to repay the bonds which will finance the roads and water lines and sewer lines needed by the development. Some of the sales taxes generated by the center will as well, but only up to a certain amount each year, and only until the bonds are repaid. No taxing entity loses any money that they are currently receiving, and taxes aren't raised on anyone else to pay for it.

Martinson, Neal, Baker, and Sullivan all wanted to move the issue back to committee, but Medlock held firm, saying that everyone was here who might be needed to answer Martinson's doubts, and that he was willing to spend the time necessary. Christiansen wasn't willing to wait, as his wife (a school teacher) was off for spring break next week, and they planned to be out of town. Martinson seemed angry at Christiansen, saying that he thought Christiansen had an open mind but it was apparent that he was all for it. Martinson said something about Christiansen giving him some leads to pursue -- presumably leads that would help derail this project.

One aspect of the proceedings confirmed the appropriateness of the label "Cockroach Caucus": Christiansen, Martinson, Neal, and Sullivan all said that they had heard from experts and people more knowledgeable than they who said that this was a bad deal, but none of those knowledgeable experts were named, and none of them showed up to argue for killing the deal. Rather than have the debate in the light of public scrutiny, these shadowy opponents remained hidden. And when it was apparent that they wouldn't be able to move the issue back to committee, the opposition from these councilors disappeared.

I think the plan was to push it back to committee and to continue to delay and delay until options on key pieces of land were set to expire, making it impossible for the project to proceed. I suspect that other investors want to see a big-box center closer to 121st Street and US 75, between Jenks and Glenpool. If Tulsa Hills went forward, a center five miles south wouldn't be able to attract that same collection of tenants.

A commenter on my previous entry expressed surprise and amusement about my concern for the success a big-box development. Would I rather this be a mixed-use, New Urbanist village? Of course. I don't like the fact that between 71st and 81st there is no access from the East or the West to this development -- you're going to see traffic nightmares because of this. I'm hoping they'll respect the topography and the trees, but I don't expect that they will.

But I'm realistic enough to know that this kind of development is going to go in somewhere in southwest Tulsa County. The demographics are ripe for it, and if it isn't built by these developers in the city limits of Tulsa, it'll be built by someone else outside the City of Tulsa, and some other city will reap the tax windfall. That's money to pay for police, streets, and sewers. That money will help finance improvements to downtown and inner city neighborhoods, too.

How can I support big-box retail here, but not on Cherry Street or Brookside? It's a matter of scale and compatibility. This development is going to be next to a limited-access highway, and is designed to attract customers from a wide radius, particularly to the south and west where there are no comparable facilities. And there isn't an existing neighborhood that it has to be compatible with.

A big-box store would damage the pedestrian-oriented qualities of neighborhoods like Cherry Street and Brookside unless it met certain design guidelines to make it pedestrian-oriented -- e.g, a two-story Lowe's, with parking in the basement. Even then, the scale of such a store would overwhelm these neighborhoods of small-scale retail right next to homes. The Brookside Plan is a good first step in defining what would be compatible new development in that neighborhood, but it needs teeth -- design guidelines for selected areas need to be part of our land-use code.

In Miami's Kendall area, they've built a big-box center where it's all stacked vertically and connected to a transit station. It can be done, but it won't be done unless the City of Tulsa requires it.

Congratulations to the Council, and particularly to Chris Medlock, who has been working with the developer and the Urban Development Department for two years to bring this to fruition. He deserves some credit, too, for building support for this from his fellow councilors and for rallying community representatives to show up and support this.

Speaking in support of this plan were Darla Hall, the former District 2 councilor whom Medlock twice defeated, and Randi Miller, the County Commissioner and former District 2 councilor who probably kept Medlock from winning the GOP nomination for mayor. Rick Westcott was there, too, so you had everyone who ever represented the affected council district there speaking in support. Despite past disagreements and rivalries, they all came to support this project for the benefit of west Tulsa.

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» Hold the Martinsonization from meeciteewurkor

Bill Martinson by TulTellitarian March 21, 2006 Expect Bill Martinson to be replaced by Jon Kirby for District 5 Council seat in the April 4th General Election. After Martinson’s long, solo speech at last Thursday’s Council meeting, he̵... Read More

3 Comments

XonOFF said:

Let us keep in mind that Jenks School District did NOT support Tulsa in this endevor.

When should see how we can return the favor when they wish to build bridges.

Jan Thomas said:

I am very glad that this passed. I am sure that the folks living in Jenks, Glenpool, Sapulpa and anyone west of Yale will likely go there to shop and avoid the headaches of the far east strip of 71st Street. Tulsa needs this revenue desperately.

I am also glad that you discussed Mr. Martinson's antics. I have been trying to get folks in District 5 in the next election and to vote for Jon Kirby. I have steered these folks to your website for clear information. Thanks again Michael!

Joey Author Profile Page said:

Michael,

Thanks for responding. That two-story Lowe's would be a site to see - guess it would have pretty big elevators :-)

The 'antics' at the council meeting illustrate the kinds of problems people are tired of in our city. When one 'side' wants to do something good for the city, the other 'side' finds a way to oppose it, under the guise of 'just asking questions'.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 17, 2006 11:02 PM.

Proposed zoning changes on Wednesday's TMAPC agenda was the previous entry in this blog.

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