Form-based codes, historic preservation design guidelines on TMAPC agenda

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Today's (July 11, 2012) meeting of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC) includes these two items near the very end of the agenda, under "Other Business":

21. Review and discuss the Tulsa Preservation Commission Design Guidelines Updates for Residential Structures and Non-Residential and Mixed-Use Structures within Historic Preservation Overlay Zoning Districts

22. The Planning Commission (PC) will make a determination and direct PC staff and City of Tulsa Planning Staff of what steps to take next regarding the Form-Based Code.

The only item following 22 is the "Commissioner's Comments" placeholder that marks the end of every agenda.

Unlike the other items on the agenda, no background information is linked for these two items.

It's apparent that the so-called "planning" commissioners aren't interested in feedback from anyone other than zoning attorneys and the special interest groups they represent. If you can only spare an hour or so away from work, you can't be present for items at the end of an agenda, since their starting times are dependent on previous agenda items and could vary by hours. Only someone whose job is to be at the TMAPC meeting (e.g., zoning attorney, development lobbyist) can afford to be there for the entire meeting, no matter how long it lasts.

The lack of background information linked online means that insiders will know what is going to be discussed and whether it will be important and worthwhile to attend, but Joe Citizen won't have a clue. An ordinary Tulsan won't have the information needed to prepare remarks to the TMAPC (assuming citizens will be allowed to speak at all) and certainly won't know enough to draft a letter.

The decision on the 11th & Utica QuikTrip has had its own deterrent effect: People saw from that decision that the "planning" commissioners and the majority of City Council members have no intention of following our brand new comprehensive plan, notwithstanding the three-year process involved in gathering public input from thousands of Tulsans, creating a plan, gathering feedback, making adjustments, and bringing the plan through the approval process.

This new comprehensive plan will be followed when it works to the advantage of the big players in town. It will be set aside when it works to their disadvantage.

After doing their best to discourage, deter, and complicate public input on these items, the "planning" commissioners will claim that the lack of dissent is because people are content with whatever the big players want.

As individuals participating in the PLANiTULSA process and through our elected representatives on the City Council, who adopted the final version of the comprehensive plan, Tulsans decided how we want to see our city develop. We want to protect our beloved single-family neighborhoods, both old and new. But we have areas of town with run-down commercial buildings, run-down apartment complexes, and abandoned industrial buildings -- in areas like these, we can allow for mixed-use, urban, walkable development, for people like college students, singles, young couples, and empty-nesters who want to live in that kind of place. Tulsa can and should offer a wide range of living choices to suit different tastes and different stages of life.

Where better to re-create a walkable, urban community than a neighborhood originally built like that -- a neighborhood like the Pearl District, developed when people walked or rode the streetcar to get places, a place that had homes, stores, churches, schools, and workplaces all within walking distance. Only a few, simple rules are needed to ensure that new development reinforces the walkable character of the district. The proposed form-based code gives a property owner far more scope to make economically productive use of his land than our current use-based zoning system does.

If I were conspiratorially minded, I would suspect that the developer lobbyists and the Tulsa Metro Chamber had conspired to get my friends in the Tea Party movement all worked up about "Agenda 21" so they'd ignore the corporate welfare county sales tax proposal likely to be on November's ballot and at the same time oppose the greater freedom offered to property owners by form-based codes as somehow a threat to liberty.

(Remember what TEA stands for? Taxed Enough Already! But have any of you heard even a grumble out of the Tulsa-area TEA Party groups about the proposed county corporate welfare tax?)

PLANiTULSA, Tulsa's new comprehensive plan adopted by our elected representatives, is not Agenda 21. We haven't signed ourselves up to obey UN treaties or regulations. We haven't ceded our sovereignty to any other entity. Blue-helmeted soldiers are not going to drop out of black helicopters onto your patio and relocate you at gunpoint into a tenement slum. Tulsa has had a comprehensive land use and transportation plan since the 1920s, and previous plans have been far more prescriptive than PLANiTULSA.

(But former Mayor Kathy Taylor did sign Tulsa up to obey the Kyoto Protocol and signed up for NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's gun-grabbing coalition, and yet a candidate claiming to be a "conservative Republican" endorsed her for re-election. I wonder how many Tea Party conservatives supported him anyway.)

I hope that next year we will elect a new mayor who is committed to carrying out the comprehensive plan that was developed by the people of Tulsa and adopted by its elected representatives, who will pull Tulsa out of TMAPC and constitute a city planning commission for Tulsa (under the same statute as Oklahoma City's planning commission), and who will entrust planning recommendations to a city planning department that is also committed to carrying out our comprehensive plan. (INCOG would continue its transportation planning role, and Tulsa may find it useful to continue to contract with INCOG to maintain zoning records and provide mapping services, but Tulsa should stop paying INCOG to analyze and make recommendations on zoning and planning.)

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 11, 2012 11:35 AM.

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