Tulsa Zoning: April 2005 Archives

TulsaNow forum tonight


Sorry for the bloglessness, but I've been working on my presentation for tonight's TulsaNow forum, "Passing the Popsicle Test: A Better Tulsa by Design." It's at 6:30, at the OSU-Tulsa Auditorium, and it's free and open to the public. Hope to see you there.

Here's a link to a map of the OSU-Tulsa campus. The auditorium is on the northwest edge of the campus. If you're coming by car -- and, sadly, that's pretty much the only way to get there -- the easiest way is to take the Cincinnati-Detroit exit on I-244, go north on Detroit, then east on John Hope Franklin Blvd (aka Haskell Street), and park in the west lot.

Charles Norman profiled


Attorney Charles Norman has dominated the field of zoning and land use in Tulsa for over thirty years, and Urban Tulsa has published a profile of Norman in this week's issue. Norman has had a long and influential career, and you need to read this article to understand this force that has shaped Tulsa's politics and physical development.

I'm quoted in the piece. I'm described as one of "Norman's detractors," which isn't really the case. I have a lot of respect for the man, but I do believe that his opinions are given more creedence by the planning commissioners and certain councilors than they deserve. Just because he wrote the zoning code 35 years ago doesn't mean that he should be the authoritative interpreter of it. There's an inaccuracy a bit later in the article: I am not a co-founder of the Midtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations. I became involved in the group in March 1998, about four months after its founding by neighborhood leaders like Scott Swearingen, Stacey Bayles, and Maria Barnes.

I've often thought that someone needs to write a biography of Charles Norman or to help him write his own memoirs. There's a lot of Tulsa history there that needs to be captured on paper.

There's one quote from the story that deserves special attention, describing our previous form of city government:

At the time, four commissioners and a virtually powerless mayor, beyond mere persuasion, could not contend with the amount of problems. What the commissioners couldn’t handle was shifted to the city attorney’s office. A Tulsa World reporter once jokingly described the system as a “strong city attorney form of government.”

Seems to me the description still fits.

A while back I wrote about the "Popsicle Test" -- a measure of the walkability of a neighborhood. "An eight-year-old in the neighborhood should be able to bike to a store to buy a Popsicle without having to battle highway-size streets and freeway-speed traffic." I grew up in a neighborhood like that, but that's not the common experience of the kids in today's Tulsa. The reason has a lot to do with our outdated approach to regulating what kinds of activities can take place on a given parcel of land. Our system of zoning is all about separating different uses from each other, based on the assumption that it's a bad thing to have, for example, shops close to homes. Between our zoning laws and the understandable desire of developers and their financiers to minimize risk and go with the flow, we've developed a city where life is impossible without a car, something that becomes a problem when you're too young to drive, when you're too old or too handicapped to drive safely, or when gas gets above $2 a gallon.

There are other ways to regulate land use, and they promise to make life more predictable and less risky for homeowners and developers alike, to remove some of the contention from land use regulation, and to allow more creativity and variety, while protecting against situations that really do threaten property values, safety, and quality of life. One approach is to focus not on what goes on inside the building -- the use -- but the scale of the building and how it relates to its surroundings. It's called form-based planning, and next Wednesday night, TulsaNow is sponsoring a series of brief talks and a panel discussion on the subject.

"Passing the Popsicle Test: A Better Tulsa by Design" will be presented Wednesday, April 27, at 6:30 p.m. in the OSU-Tulsa Auditorium, just north of downtown. Speakers will include Jamie Jamieson, developer of the Village at Central Park; Russell Claus, Oklahoma City's Director of the Office of Economic Development; and me. There will be a panel discussion with questions and answers following the presentations.

Land use continues to be the central issue in Tulsa politics. Form-based planning may be a way to think outside the box and come up with a solution that will meet the needs of developers and property owners while helping us to create a more beautiful and livable city.

F&M plat back on the agenda


Expect to see another short Tulsa City Council meeting due to a lack of a quorum tonight. F&M Bank's final plat for the 71st and Harvard is on the agenda, and since five of the eight councilors are being sued personally for their vote to deny the plat, they will have to recuse themselves, and it will be impossible to continue with the agenda. The sensible thing would be for the Council to drop the item from the agenda, since they will never have a quorum to vote on it as long as the lawsuit is pending.

For F&M, the sensible thing would be to file an application for a major amendment to their planned unit development, as approved by the Council in 2003. That's what they should have done in the first place, rather than trying to pretend that a meaningful omission was a mere scrivener's error. Then F&M could sue whichever of their attorneys was responsible for the omission and recover the extra cost to their project.

The City Council did their job -- they rejected a plat that was inconsistent with the zoning for the subdivision. F&M should drop the suit against the councilors and put the blame where it really belongs.

(Hat tip to Bobby of Tulsa Topics for calling attention to this item.)

F&M Bank and Trust Corporation has filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in District Court to force the City of Tulsa to approve the final plat on their 71st & Harvard development. While all eight sitting Tulsa City Councilors are named as defendants, the bank is only seeking monetary damages from the five Tulsa City Councilors (Christiansen, Henderson, Mautino, Medlock, and Turner) who initially voted to deny the plat. You can read a the petition (500 K PDF file) here. While a councilor would ordinarily be immune from legal action pertaining to a vote he cast, F&M is arguing that approving a plat is a ministerial action, not discretionary or legislative, and therefore legislative immunity does not apply.

About this Archive

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

Tulsa Zoning: March 2005 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Zoning: May 2005 is the next archive.

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