Tulsa Zoning: January 2005 Archives

HFFZ also relays contact information for Yorktown Neighborhood, which is fighting rezoning of a lot in a historic preservation district for a bank parking lot. They'd like homeowners from all of Tulsa's historic preservation zoning districts to speak at the TMAPC hearing on Wednesday, February 2, at 1:30 p.m. in the City Council room, to defend the integrity of these historic districts, weak though the ordinance is.

TMAPC tries sleight of hand


Homeowners for Fair Zoning is continuing to keep an eye on the situation with the planned F&M Bank branch at 71st & Harvard. The lawsuit over the improper handling of the neighborhood's protest petition is still pending, but in the meantime F&M Bank is making preparations to build -- and they apparently want to build something different than what the TMAPC and the City Council approved at the end of 2003. Here's what the HFFZ website says about it:

On January 5, 2005, at TMAPC's 1:30 p.m. public hearing, John S. Denney presented the following objections to approval of the bank's plat and related restrictive covenants. The essence of the objection is that the TMAPC approved and recommended approval to the City Council in this P.U.D. of "permitted uses" for the property which did not include the two office buildings. The Council then approved the TMAPC's written recommendation which did not include the offices. If the City Council finds that this is indeed a change from the original P.U.D. approved by the Council, it will be free to deny the plat and P.U.D. amendment and block the building of the two office buildings. Without the office buildings, the project will likely have to be scrapped.

Rather than correct this problem through the proper channels (which should include TMAPC and Council approval for a major amendment), the TMAPC attempted to pretend that something different was actually approved:

Without notice to HFFZ or anyone other than the bank, TMAPC had added a proposal to the agenda, styled as a "correction," to retroactively amend the minutes of the August 27, 2003, TMAPC meeting where the "permitted uses" for P.U.D. 687 had been adopted. It was these minutes which were submitted for approval by the City Council and which formed the basis for the City Council's approval of this P.U.D. With the current language for the "permitted uses," the bank's ability to build is strongly in doubt. Hence, the effort by TMAPC to change the minutes.

When challenged on this attempted sleight of hand, did the TMAPC chairman blush and sheepishly apologize?

Despite not being given notice of the agenda addition to change the minutes, Mr. Denney caught the item, filed a written objection and waited approximately 2 1/2 hours until this item (placed as the last item on the agenda) was reached. When he got up to speak, TMAPC's anti-neighborhood leader, Joe Westervelt, tried to prevent him from speaking and informing the public of what TMAPC and the bank were trying to do. HFFZ will try to get a sound clip from the verbal exchanges between Mr. Westervelt and Mr. Denney. The public needs to become aware of the heavy-handed tactics used by Mr. Westervelt and TMAPC.

Westervelt was reappointed in 2002 by Mayor Bill LaFortune, over the strong objections of neighborhood leaders. Westervelt is himself a developer -- not a bad thing in itself, but he verbally abuses many of those who come before the TMAPC with objections to proposed zoning changes. His arrogance was on display during a February 2004 TMAPC hearing, a story you can read here.

Westervelt is up for reappointment -- his term expired on Tuesday. When Westervelt was reappointed in 2002, Mayor LaFortune assured me that Westervelt was contrite about his rude behavior and promised to do better in future. The Mayor assured me that if Westervelt got out of line again, he would personally go down to the TMAPC meeting and register his objection. Westervelt has gotten out of line, but the Mayor hasn't done a thing about it. Now he has the chance to appoint someone fair and open-minded to the TMAPC to replace Westervelt. The word around town is that the Mayor is trying to figure out how to recapture grass-roots support. If he reappoints Westervelt, or appoints someone else just like him, the Mayor can kiss grass-roots support adios, goodbye, auf wiedersehen.

Setting aside Westervelt's behavior, the fact that the TMAPC would consider rewriting history is appalling. A TMAPC that insisted on the utmost precision in the neighborhood's protest petition should not be allowed to call "do-overs" on their recommendation to the City Council.

Good news at 15th and Utica: Tulsa Preservation Commission denied a request to demolish a home in the Yorktown historic district and turn it into parking for a new Arvest Bank branch. The bad news is that this is really only a stay of execution. The TPC can only delay demolition of a historic structure for 60 days.

Charles Norman, the attorney for Arvest, was quoted as saying, “This development [the new bank and the accompanying demolition] will end up helping the neighborhood by stabilizing its corners and encouraging residents to improve their own properties.” In fact, while the bank itself may be a good thing for the neighborhood, the encroachment into the residential area and the demolition of historic properties will undermine the value of surrounding properties. Homes that once faced other historic homes will now face a flat sheet of asphalt. People will be less likely to invest in maintaining and improving their homes without the assurance that historic standards will be enforced. Particularly vulnerable are the smaller homes along Victor Avenue and along the north side of 16th Street.

Charles Norman is right that infill development will be needed "to make Tulsa's core flourish," but it has to be done in a way that preserves the positive aspects of the neighborhood's character. The bank could have gone in at 15th & Lewis, in place of the vacant supermarket building, or it could have gone in without drive-thru lanes, using the extra space for parking and avoiding the need to demolish homes in the historic district.

One of the TPC commissioners says that the development would save the neighborhood from something much worse that could go there. That argument has often been put forward by Charles Norman himself. Mr. Norman, as City Attorney at the time, was the primary author of the zoning system we now have, and he continues to have a great deal of influence over its evolution and application. If you think about it, the message is, "The zoning code I created is so inadequate for infill development, so open to incompatible development, so insensitive to the character of existing development, that you should be grateful that what my client is proposing is only mildly incompatible."

The system is broken. The zoning code was designed for sprawling suburban development on vacant land. It has been patched more times than a six-pack-a-day smoker trying to kick the habit. It's time to replace it with something that works for our present circumstances.

Tulsa Topics has more here.

Historic non-preservation

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There's a story in Sunday's Whirled (starts here, jump page here) about a revival of plans to build a new Arvest Bank branch on the southeast corner of 15th and Utica. The dispute isn't so much about the bank building itself, which will sit on the site of the old H. L. Moss store, but about the parking, which will replace three homes within the Yorktown Historic Preservation zoning district, and about access from the bank lot to Victor Avenue, currently a residential street.

The dispute is ultimately the result of trying to do suburban-style development in one of Tulsa's few remaining walkable urban neighborhoods. If the bank were built without a drive-through, the parking could probably fit in the already commercialized area at the corner, without the need to sacrifice the historic homes.

Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune has submitted two new appointments to the Board of Adjustment. The nominees are Clayda Stead and Frank X. Henke IV, replacing Norma Turnbo and David White, respectively. The City Council's Urban and Economic Development committee will consider these nominations today at 10 a.m. in the Council Committee room.

Turnbo's term ended 19 months ago. White's term expired this past May. The Mayor is finally getting around to dealing with these expired terms.

The Board of Adjustment has a significant impact on the quality of life of Tulsa's neighborhoods, because of the discretion the BoA has under the zoning code to grant special exceptions under many conditions. We need good, fair-minded people who will give due consideration to the impact of their decisions on homeowners.

I'm familiar with Clayda mainly from her activism in opposition to sales tax increases in the early and mid '90s. She was also an advocate for building the women's softball fields, and the eastside park where they are located was named Savage Park at Clayda's urging. I don't know anything about Clayda's views on land use. Clayda has also run for City Council in District 5.

Frank X. Henke IV is the son of Frank and Bonnie Henke. I've not met the younger Frank, but neighborhood activists know and appreciate his mother as someone who is knowledgeable and fair-minded about land use and zoning issues and understands neighborhood concerns. Bonnie ran for City Council in District 9 in 2002, losing the Republican primary to Susan Neal by a slender margin. (A last-minute unfair attack circulated by developers via e-mail may have been the deciding factor in that race.) If Frank IV shares his mother's views, he will be a fine addition to the board.

If you can't attend in person, I encourage you to tune in to the committee replay on Tulsa Cable channel 24, to see what questions are asked and if there is anything that should be of concern to neighborhoods. Committee meetings are usually rebroadcast between 1 pm - 6 pm each day, beginning the following day. I don't expect the nominations to come before the full Council this week, as the Council is taking more time to vet nominations than was customary in the past.

Before I close, I want to thank David White for his years of service as a member and chairman of the Board of Adjustment. David is a Midtown resident (White City) who regularly attends meetings of the Midtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations. He has always been ready to answer questions and offer insight into the reasons behind the decisions made by the board. BoA meetings often last far into the evening, and doing the job well requires additional time to study the materials and see the subject property first-hand. We may not always have agreed with his decisions, but we knew that he was diligent and honestly striving to be fair, and that he understood and considered the impact of his decisions on neighborhoods. Thanks, David, for the time you invested in this role.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Zoning category from January 2005.

Tulsa Zoning: December 2004 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Zoning: February 2005 is the next archive.

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