Forum on neighborhood conservation districts Monday night

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For nearly ten years, I've been urging Tulsa to enact a neighborhood conservation district ordinance. Sometimes they're called urban conservation districts or some other name, but these zoning districts are aimed at ensuring that new development in an established neighborhood is compatible with existing development. Unlike a historic preservation district, a conservation district doesn't require exterior features to reflect a particular style or era. Instead, conservation districts focus on issues like size, setbacks, height, and location of parking. Oklahoma City has had conservation districts since the early '80s, and the practice was expanded to cover areas like Bricktown and near-downtown mixed-use districts in the late '90s.

Conservation districts can also be used in unique areas of the city that need special protection -- for example, Tulsa ought to have design guidelines for development along the Arkansas River, so we don't wind up with more convenience stores that turn their backs to the river.

Conservation districts were discussed by Mayor Susan Savage's Infill Development Task Force, but she flinched at implementation. The idea has been slowly gaining momentum in the intervening years, particularly as the composition of the City Council has become more neighborhood-friendly and as more neighborhood associations realize that our current zoning laws do little to protect the essential qualities of their neighborhoods.

Monday night, Tulsa City Councilor Maria Barnes, who represents an area that could greatly benefit from conservation districts, is hosting a neighborhood leader meeting on the topic on Monday, January 28. It will be held at the Central Community Center in Centennial Park, 1028 E. 6th, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. TMAPC member and Yorktown neighborhood resident Michelle Cantrell, Susan McKee from the Coalition of Historic Neighborhoods, and Steve Novick of Preserve Midtown will be among the speakers. It's a good opportunity to learn about how the concept is used in other cities and how it might be applied in Tulsa.

Speaking of Councilor Barnes, I want to take this opportunity to address a strange rumor being floated around town. Someone is claiming that I am running her re-election campaign. (And they're saying it as if it would be a black mark on her!)

I am not running anyone's campaign. I don't have the time or the organizational skills to run anyone's campaign. Last time around I volunteered my time to help friends like Rick Westcott, Jim Mautino, John Eagleton, and Chris Medlock who were running for city office. Westcott and Eagleton were re-elected without opposition and Mautino and Medlock are retired from politics, so none of them need my help this time out.

Maria Barnes is a friend of mine, too. We became acquainted through the Midtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, and for many years we served together as officers. I was proud to have her endorsement when I ran for City Council in 2002. I was happy to endorse her in her Democratic primary race against Jack Wing in 2006.

Just a handful of Tulsa's city councilors were first neighborhood activists and leaders. Terry Doverspike, Roscoe Turner, Jim Mautino, and Maria Barnes are the only names that come to mind. These are people who came into office having already dealt with code enforcement, INCOG, the Board of Adjustment, the TMAPC, and other city departments. I haven't always agreed with those councilors, but on the whole, I think it's a good thing to have that kind of experience and perspective on the City Council.

I'm happy to have a number of friends on the City Council and proud to count Maria Barnes in that number. I've spoken to her a couple of times on the phone recently, and I've also spoken to a couple of her opponents. I'm happy to talk to anyone running for city office who wants to pick my brain about city issues. But I'm not running Maria's campaign or anyone else's.

MORE: Here's a collection of links to past BatesLine and Urban Tulsa Weekly items about conservation districts. (The legislative bills mentioned would have damaged a city's ability to enact and enforce historic preservation districts and neighborhood conservation districts.)

November 2003: Hiding the agenda
December 2003: Even McDonald's can blend in
January 2004: Tom Baker: A bureaucrat to the core
January 2005: The video game test
January 2005: Historic non-preservation
July 2004: Whirled calls demolitions "improvements"
July 2005: Not so Safeway
February 2006: - 2006 City Council Questionnaire
April 2006: Mayoral responses to the Urban Tulsa Weekly questionnaire
May 2006: SB 1324 is still lurking
May 2006: - An Eye on City Hall
May 2006: Citizens' Commission starts winding down; SB 1324 update
May 2006: SB 1324, HB 2559, Susan Neal, and non-partisan elections
January 2007: Neal down and prey
October 2007: October 16th forum on neighborhood conservation and teardowns
November 2007: Conserving Midtown neighborhoods

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JW said:

Well, if INCOG would uphold the purposes of PUDs instead of letting developers make egregious zoning changes I think you could avoid these types of districts for the most part.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 24, 2008 11:13 PM.

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