Legislature interferes in local control of land use -- HB 2559 and SB 1324

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This week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly is about HB 2559, a bill in the Oklahoma legislature which represents an unwarranted state intrusion on local government control over zoning and land use regulation. (The column also covers the latest BOk Center bids, which put the arena at least $30 million over budget.)

HB 2559 would limit a city's options for handling appeals of decisions made by the city's Board of Adjustment (BoA), which considers variances and special exceptions to zoning requirements. The bill was amended in the State Senate to make it easier to remove historic preservation (HP) zoning from a parcel of land.

Since filing the story, I've learned about a parallel bill which originated in the State Senate called SB 1324. Like HB 2559, SB 1324 is sponsored by Sen. Brian Crain and Rep. Ron Peters. Like HB 2559, it would restrict a city's options for handling BoA appeals. Unlike HB 2558, SB 1324 also grants new powers to a Board of Adjustment:

[The board of adjustment shall have the power to] Hear and decide proposals for accessory elements associated with an allowed building use, where appropriate general performance and design standards have been established which promote greater economic value and provide a harmonious relationship with adjoining land uses by ordinance or by administrative rule or regulation. Such proposals and performance or design standards may include, but are not limited to, such accessory elements as sound, building material, runoff, lighting, visual screening, landscaping and vehicular considerations....

Earlier today I spoke to someone in the Clerk's office of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. My understanding is that HB 2559 is headed for a conference committee, but the conferees have yet to be named. SB 1324, on the other hand, was passed unanimously by the State Senate on March 9 (44-0), and passed unanimously on April 17 by the State House (98-0), but with a very small amendment. If the Senate votes to accept the House amendment, SB 1324 goes to the Governor for his signature. (The House amendment adds the phrase "and subsequent appellate courts" to the section forcing BoA appeals to District Court.) The final vote on SB 1324 is likely to happen this week.

Whatever the merits of BoA appeals and HP regulations, these matters should be handled locally, not dictated from Oklahoma City. Both of these bills should be scrapped.

If you want to make a difference on this bill, you need to contact your State Senator as soon as possible. To find out who represents you in Oklahoma City and how to contact them, click here, input your address, and click "Submit." The result will show you who your representatives are, their district office phone number, and their Capitol office phone number, and e-mail address.

It is amazing that these bills would pass without much opposition. I have to assume that legislators voted for it because they weren't aware of anyone who was against it, not because they had actually studied the measure. The supporters of the bill did a fine job of keeping it quiet so that potential opponents wouldn't be alerted.

It didn't happen this time, but I would hope that in the future, seeing Title 11 (Cities and Towns) on a bill would move legislators to consult with municipal officials in their districts. I would also hope that the City Council would assign a staffer to keep an eye on legislation affecting Title 11. Bills affecting Title 26 (Elections) and Title 60 (Trusts) might also have an impact on City Hall.

With these bills, the Tulsa development lobby seems to have exported our local debate over land use policy to the State Capitol. Until now, Republicans who disagree on local issues have nevertheless been united on state matters like taxation and tort reform. By putting a divisive issue into play at the state level, it may depress grass-roots enthusiasm to help Republican legislators keep the State House and win the State Senate.


Bob said:

The term we should apply to our Legislators is:


It's jez bizness, Michael.

They are owned by our home-grown Oklahoma Oligarchy allied with the Development "Community" who markets the land the Oligarchs acquired after they built their first fortunes in the Oil Bizness.

Now, the Oligarchs are in the Land Bizness. BIG time. They are the only ones who can afford to buy and hold land, owning it debt-free as is their practice. Otherwise, the cost-of-carry of interest and taxes offsets any long-term increase in value.

And, helping elect their County Cronies with generous campaign contributions who come in Oh-So Handy when it comes time for Tax Assessments for Ad Valorem purposes....

Michael, the Reformers haven't got the chance of a snowball in Hades vs. the Oligarchs.

No man is safe in his rights or his property when our Retro Legislature meets from Feb. - May.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 28, 2006 10:55 PM.

Still water runs the deepest was the previous entry in this blog.

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