25th and Yale DHS group home neighborhood meeting tonight

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A neighborhood meeting tonight (August 8, 2013) at 7 p.m. will discuss plans to convert the former Philadelphia Assembly church building at 2545 S. Yale Ave. in Tulsa to a group home for teens in DHS custody.

The meeting will be held at Berean Baptist Church, 21st Street and Darlington Ave.

Several weeks ago Shadow Mountain Behavioral Health System CEO Mike Kistler spoke at the building to interested neighbors about their plans for the property. DHS approached Shadow Mountain about providing a group home for teens in DHS custody. DHS classifies the proposed facility as a Residential Child Care Facility.

The Oklahoma DHS website provides the following description of community-based residential services:

Community-Based Residential Services provide program support management for the care and treatment of youth in Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) custody who are determined deprived and whose treatment needs can no longer be met in their own home, a relative's home or in traditional foster family care. The treatment needs for OKDHS custody children may be met either in a group home, specialized community home or in acute or Residential Treatment Care (RTC) facility. These programs are either operated by OKDHS or by an agency or individuals under formal contract with OKDHS and licensed by the Oklahoma Child Care Services as a child placing agency or residential child care facility. In order to meet the complex treatment needs of these youth, Child Welfare Services maintains a continuum of community based residential care placement resources which vary in the level and intensity of treatment services provided.

The conversion to a group home requires the City of Tulsa Board of Adjustment to approve a special exception for the property to be used as a Children's Home, which is in a single-family residential zoning district (RS3). A children's home is classified as Use Unit 2, permitted by special exception in any zoning classification. To approve a special exception, the BOA must find that the proposal will not be injurious to the neighborhood or detrimental to the public welfare.

The case number is BOA-51294. That link leads to a PDF with maps, photos, and aerial views of the property, emails and letters from BOA staff, DHS staff, Shadow Mountain staff, and concerned neighbors about the planned use of the property.

It appears that Shadow Mountain CEO Mike Kistler has been very accessible and responsive to neighbors with questions. He has agreed to a number of conditions to be included in the special exception, including fencing, paving of the parking lot and driveways (currently gravel), no sex offenders, a limit of 16 residents, all of whom must be under 18, requirement to be licensed by OKDHS as a residential child care facility, no identifying signage. The applicant has agreed that the special exception should expire when Shadow Mountain ceases to operate on the site.

Some neighbors are concerned that the property will be owned by a third party and leased to Shadow Mountain. Can the expiration of the special exception if Shadow Mountain ceases to operate there be made a binding and enforceable part of the exception? How would it be enforced? There are also concerns about the teens who will be living there: If these teens cannot be housed in a traditional foster home or with relatives, are they a potential danger to neighbors? Will they have tight enough supervision to keep them under control?

Some local history:

The building's cornerstone has the date of construction as 1953 for the Philadelphia Assembly, "The Church of Brotherly Love," the Rev. L. R. Lynch, Pastor. The building is wedged between the Gracemont subdivision, developed in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the Lortondale subdivision, famous for its mid-century modern architecture, developed in the mid-1950s. The church's property is adjacent to the Lortondale Pool, a private pool open to members.

Most recently the building has been home to Community of Hope United Church of Christ, somewhat famous for being the home church of two women who were married by the church's then-pastor, Leslie Penrose, in 2004 using a Cherokee Nation marriage license obtained, in my opinion, under false pretenses (the use of initials rather than first names on the license application). The church appears to be out of business. Its website is offline, and its last Facebook wall entry, from September 21, 2012, is the administrative assistant's announcement that she has been laid off. The church's entry in the UCC directory claimed a membership of 116 and an average attendance of 35. A Chinowth and Cohen "for sale" sign has been in front of the building for some time.

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La ura Collins said:

Michael Bates provides the community with a very valuable resource on this blog -- which contains thorough information regarding city of Tulsa developments, neighborhood issues and other related material. Such facilities described in this article for youth who require special help are much needed in every community. It would seem that IF the property is well managed and contained it should be a good service to the kids who will be housed there and be a source of little concern to the neighbors. The neighbors have questions and legitimate concerns and these should be thoroughly discussed and they deserve to get clear, detailed answers for their questions.
Hopefully, it will work out for everyone.

Graychin said:

Mr. Bates:

As of about 4PM Monday afternoon, Shadow Mountain had withdrawn its application to the BOA for this project.

I am a property owner near the church building in question. I could not be involved in all the research and hard work done by numerous other property owners. But to make a long story short, the facility actually would have been a treatment center, not a group home as stated by Shadow Mountain. The neighbors feel that Shadow Mountain misrepresented the true nature of their project in an attempt to slide it past the BOA in spite of noncompliance with applicable zoning rules. The neighbors also feel that the BOA staff didn't do a proper evaluation of the proposal - that in fact they did everything possible as Shadow Mountain advocates to get the project approved regardless of the applicable law and regulations. This included dropping a 150+ page packet on the homeowners this past Friday evening - for a Tuesday meeting.

I spoke with one of the leaders of the opposition just now. He is an old friend. He talked to a BOA staff member today and pointed out to him that the DHS requirements that Shadow Mountain was to meet with this facility did not conform to the descriptions in Shadow Mountain's proposal. The BOA staff member said something like this to my friend: "We would have made a different evaluation if we had had this information earlier." It was shortly after that when Shadow Mountain pulled its application. I assume that the BOA staff called Shadow Mountain promptly after hearing from my friend.

Of course you shouldn't rely on any of the hearsay I have supplied above. But I do encourage you to look into this story more deeply - especially because of your expertise in zoning and land use around Tulsa. I hate to think that the BOA staff is not doing proper evaluations. Even worse, I hate to think that they would actually collude with applicants to violate the rules, to include flexible deadlines that include Friday night data dumps.

I'm sure that my friend would be happy to submit the information that his group gathered, if you are interested in that side of the argument. You have my email address if you want me to put him in contact with you.

Thanks for listening.

Shadow6 said:

Oh my goodness. Kids in DHS Custody right next to the Lortondale Pool?

Don't worry, fathers and mothers, DHS is on the job, go ahead and send your sons and daughters to the pool for a fun filled afternoon! And who knows? You might meet some interesting people who you would have never met before!

Shadow6 said:

Imaginary meeting of the planning cell:

"Hey, we got caught on that Lortondale Church Deal."

"Oh, piffle. Well, on to plan B?"

Yeah, I'll have the staff provide us info on available land in the White City and Glenhaven area. Shouldn't be any problem there."

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 8, 2013 1:03 PM.

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