Tulsa Zoning: January 2004 Archives

The slide shows presented by TulsaNow at Wednesday night's city council candidate forum are now available on the TulsaNow website here. There are two presentations.

The first is entitled "We Can Do Better", and it was presented by Duane Cuthbertson. It is laden with pictures which are more eloquent than the words, but I'll give you some of the words to give you enough of the flavor so you'll want to look at the presentation in all its glory.

It begins by leading the audience through a mental exercise:

Id like to start with a little exercise. Id like to ask everyone in the audience to imagine that you have two weeks to spend in any city in the world (cities, not beaches). You have no family or work obligations, and money is no object. Now imagine yourself in that city . . . . Think about your surroundings . . . .

... the question we confront, and which those we elect to office will confront, is whether Tulsa will be more like the cities we admire and enjoy, or more like the cities we do our best to avoid.

The presentation goes on to look at Tulsa as it is today, showing examples of good urban form and bad urban form, and then showing how we can take the kind of places we have now, places that don't work well, and make them better by adding elements of good urban design.

The second slide show, presented by Jamie Jamieson, reviewed TulsaNow's mission and core values, set out the importance of land use planning and the drawbacks of zoning as a means of land use planning, and alternative approaches to planning. The presentation concluded with a list of principles, strategies, and actions TulsaNow is encouraging the new City Council to adopt for its 2004-2006 term. I won't spoil the presentation by listing them here; you need to see them in context.

Go and read them, and when you're done, have a browse through the resources on the site and visit some of the research links. You'll begin to get a sense of what TulsaNow hopes for our city's future, and the lessons we can learn from the experiences of other cities.

Wednesday night's TulsaNow candidate forum on land use planning was a wonderful event. 13 of the 26 council candidates were present to respond to a presentation on land use planning as we do it now, and as we might do it in the future. The opening slideshow, presented by city planner Duane Cuthbertson and developer Jamie Jamieson, featured compelling images of city scenes good, bad, and ugly. Jamie, who is the developer of the Village at Central Park, made the point that development is not the problem; the real problem is the patterns of development. We need to be willing to do development in a different way than it's been done for the past 50 years.

Candidates, including some not in attendance, submitted written responses to five questions on the topic.

The Tulsa Whirled coverage , headlined "Group focuses on city zoning", missed one of the key points of the evening. TulsaNow points out that there are various methods of land use planning, of which zoning is only one, albeit the predominant approach in the US since World War II. Tulsa's land use planning process is broken, and zoning, which requires strict and arbitrary segregation of different land uses, very different from the ways in which cities evolved before World War II. Our process generates confrontations between homeowners and developers. For example, a change in land use which might be beneficial is fought because the zoning change opens the door for other uses which might be disruptive.

It was clear that the concepts under discussion were new to most of the candidates, even to some of the incumbent councilors. Some impressions:

Most of the candidates were at least open to the ideas presented, and many gave answers that suggested they had thought about some of these notions before, particularly Medlock, Self, Mautino, Huston, and Neal. Huston expressed the most enthusiasm for the vision presented but said he didn't know to what extent the Council had the power to make it happen. Medlock called for a flexible, comprehensible, comprehensive master plan that would be "stuck to". He said it should be hard for zoning attorneys to make a living in this town.

Eagleton made the excellent point that whether you have a new plan or an old plan doesn't matter when you have Councilors who won't honor the plan. Eagleton also emphasized respect for property rights and sounded an appropriate note of caution, reminding that layering new restrictions on property owners can be considered a taking under our Bill of Rights.

When asked if the current system was friendly to homeowners or developers, Medlock said the pendulum had swung too far in the direction of developers, and most candidates agreed, except for Baker who refused to answer and just said there was opportunity for improvement, and Neal, pointing to two recent TMAPC decisions that favored the neighborhood over the applicant, said it depends on who you ask. (Neal answered the question in terms of outcomes, but the question was really about the fairness of the process.)

Larry Self wants to transplant downtown Minneapolis to downtown Tulsa. Joe Conner called for a ban on political contributions from individuals bringing zoning cases before the Council.

Baker exhibited his bureaucratic mindset in all his answers, but I'll save that for another entry.

It's hard to imagine the point of having a bail bond office seven or eight miles away from the county courthouse and jail, but ABC Bail Bonds is asking to rezone a duplex on the edge of the Lewis Crest neighborhood at 51st and Atlanta, right across from the regional Girl Scouts headquarters. Although the home is not yet approved for the new use, word is that the business is already up and running 24/7.

Imagine having a next door to you a 24 hour business whose client base is people who have run afoul of the law. (Girl Scouts selling cookies rarely need to be bailed out of jail.) Worse yet, the INCOG staff has recommended approval of the zoning change on the grounds that it is in accordance with "trends" in the area. Neighbors see a connection with the strip club going in at 51st & Harvard and wonder if businesses catering to a similar clientele will fill in along 51st Street. That area has been relatively quiet, with some office buildings replacing homes, compatible with the neighborhood, and nothing so far like a bail bonds office. Despite the proximity to I-44, the locations of entrances and exits on that stretch of road makes 51st from Lewis to Delaware inconvenient to easy-on, easy-off traffic, but a concentration of businesses targeting freeway traffic could change all that.

By the way, it's not just homeowners who are concerned. Weinkaupf Petroleum, which has an office across the street from the proposed location, has written the TMAPC protesting the zoning change

This points up the need to review our 20-year-old Comprehensive Plan, which long ago ceased being either comprehensive or a plan. The review needs to be on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis, and those who have already invested in that neighborhood should have a strong voice in determining its future direction.

During the build-up to Vision 2025, I proposed a neighborhood assessment process which was well-received by Mayor LaFortune and others. This process was used by Kansas City, Missouri. An assessment was done for every neighborhood in the city, centered around a meeting bringing together homeowners, businesses, and other neighborhood stakeholders. At this meeting, bolstered by weeks of research by urban development staff, a neighborhood identifies the basic condition of the neighborhood, what needs to change, what qualities and features need to be preserved, and how they would like to see the neighborhood evolve in the future. Specific improvements are identified -- projects that can be tackled by homeowners, projects that will need outside private help, and projects that need government involvement. In Kansas City, this program took four years and $2 million to complete, and they didn't use a tax increase to pay for it -- it was integrated into the normal way they do business. Supposedly some of the $30 million "downtowns and neighborhoods" project money will pay for this program in the City of Tulsa, but we shall see.

In the meantime, we need to support the Lewis Crest neighborhood as they fight this rezoning attempt, which comes before the TMAPC today at 1:30, although there has been a request to postpone ("continue") the hearing until two weeks later, which is likely to be granted. If the TMAPC approves, the request will go to the City Council. E-mail your city councilor, and e-mail the TMAPC care of bhuntsinger@incog.org and express your concern. Remember -- some day it could be your neighborhood.

UPDATE (1/27/2003): I understand that the zoning application was rejected by the TMAPC.

Homeowners for Fair Zoning, the city-wide neighborhood alliance that emerged from the 71st & Harvard zoning case, is meeting tonight (Wednesday, January 21) at Martin East Regional Library, 26th and Garnett, at 7 p.m. There are two main topics of the meeting -- an update on the civil rights lawsuit filed over the City's invalidation of the homeowners' protest petition, and a discussion of the upcoming City Council elections.

For more information, contact Mona Miller, 496-1481, or by e-mail at mrmruoutthere@aol.com

Dropping the ball

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City Councilor Randy Sullivan, whose zoning-related antics have been documented on this site, is getting lots of publicity for trying, once again, to close the barn door after the cows have gotten out, metaphorically speaking. A strip club will be going in at 51st & Harvard because the City Council dropped the ball in the Fall of 2002.

From today's Whirled:

At a public meeting Monday, about 350 area residents voiced opposition to the topless bar and frustration about a zoning process that didn't allow for public input.

Any zoning action the council takes to restrict such businesses won't stop the topless bar from opening at 51st and Harvard.

The city had an opportunity 14 months ago to act on the zoning changes that Sullivan is now calling for, but it failed to act on the proposal, which came from the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission.

More than a year ago, the Mayor's Office asked the Planning Commission to increase the spacing requirement between sexually oriented businesses and protected businesses or residential areas to 1,000 feet and to add facilities frequented by youths younger than 18 to the list of protected businesses.

The request stemmed from an unsuccessful move by a party associated with Traylor to open a sexually oriented business near a child-care center downtown.

Because the council approves zoning changes, the Planning Commission recommended that the council amend the zoning code by adding the changes.

The council discussed the recommendation at a November 2002 committee meeting but never acted on it.

When I have more time, I'll post a complete timeline and add some links to TMAPC and Council minutes. It was interesting that the Council minutes for that November 2002 committee meeting show no interest in the subject on the part of the Councilors.

So who gets the blame for dropping the ball? Bill Christiansen was Council chairman. The original zoning problem that raised the concern about strip clubs near daycare centers was in Tom Baker's district, and he is the one of the co-chairmen of the Council's Urban and Economic Development committee. And any councilor could have put the matter on the agenda, but none of them did.

By the way, one council seat was vacant at this time: Randi Miller had resigned her District 2 seat to take her post on the County Commission, and Chris Medlock had not yet been elected to replace her.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Zoning category from January 2004.

Tulsa Zoning: December 2003 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Zoning: February 2004 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

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