Tulsa Zoning: January 2011 Archives

Thanks to Urban Tulsa Weekly staff for their kind words in naming me once again to the paper's annual "Hot 100" list. I'm pleased, too, to see great Tulsans like restaurant entrepreneur Blake Ewing, developer/urbanist Jamie Jamieson, and architect Shelby Navarro on the list. Tulsa city planner Theron Warlick is the second name on the list, a well-deserved honor for his hard work and leadership with PLANiTULSA (which has its own spot on the list). Theron would make a great city planning director, don't you think?

Speaking of the city planning director position and the development of a new zoning code consistent with the PLANiTULSA comprehensive land use plan, UTW's Mike Easterling has a story about the disagreement at City Hall over how to fund these needs.The mayor wants to use one-time money, the Council wants a stable funding source to pay for a permanent position.

Also in the current issue, soon-to-be-former planning commissioner Elizabeth Wright talked to Mike Easterling about her term on the TMAPC, possibilities for the future and why she thinks she rubbed some people the wrong way:

As for the perception that she had become a bit of a lightning rod for controversy as a planning commissioner -- a job not generally regarded as a high-profile position in local political circles -- Wright acknowledged that her style may have ruffled some feathers.

"If anything, I'm more blunt than anything else ... I think there are times that we come across as being rude, and we're not trying to be rude," she said, recalling a Planning Commission case in which a developer appearing before that body became upset with her because of her questions over the project's lighting. Wright said she regards asking such questions as part of her job and said many developers simply aren't used to having to go into such detail.

"There were some developers that were accustomed to doing business the way it had always been done," she said. "They were used to not having someone question what they were doing or saying, and not putting together the pieces to what they were doing....

"Things don't have to be done the same old way every time," she said, explaining that storm water runoff on development projects -- and its impact on surrounding properties -- is one such issue that has been ignored or neglected by the TMAPC for far too long.

"The Planning Commission should stand up and be responsible and quit passing the buck," she said.

Wright's willingness to speak up on such issues is a big part of what has earned her the resentment of some members of the development community. To an extent, she regards that as a natural product of the changing atmosphere in Tulsa.

"We're in a shift, so, yes, it's going to be abrasive," she said. "When you're going through times of change, some people want it, some people don't, and there are going to be clashes."

Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith has appointed a new Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC) member, but his home and neighborhood are not within the TMAPC's jurisdiction.

Keith's appointee is Ryon Stirling, a City of Sand Springs homeowner. His property is unaffected by the decisions of the TMAPC. The TMAPC's jurisdiction is the City of Tulsa and unincorporated Tulsa County; the City of Sand Springs has its own municipal planning commission "responsible for the administration of planning and zoning ordinances and the comprehensive plan for the City."

Stirling replaces Elizabeth Wright, a City of Tulsa homeowner (and thus a resident within the TMAPC's jurisdiction). Wright's three-year term will expire on January 18. About a year ago, Keith made an ill-considered and unsuccessful attempt to force Wright from office.

In the daily paper's story on the appointment, Keith is quoted as saying she "was just following through with [her] commitment to get someone from west of the river." Stirling lives on N. Main St. in Sand Springs, which is north of the river, on the opposite side of the river from west Tulsa.

UPDATE 2010/01/05: Is Stirling's appointment legal? Yes, because he's a Tulsa County resident being appointed to a Tulsa County seat on the TMAPC. It is, however, an offense to the idea of representative government and self-determination to have a planning commissioner who will be unaffected by the decisions he makes.

The City of Sand Springs has absolutely no relationship with the TMAPC. The same is true of Broken Arrow, Skiatook, Bixby, Jenks, and every other Tulsa County municipality (with the lone exception of the City of Tulsa). Each of the suburbs has its own Title 11, Article XLV, municipal planning commission, which performs roughly the same functions that the TMAPC performs for Tulsa: holding hearings and making recommendations on zoning changes, zoning code amendments, lot splits, subdivision regulations, and comprehensive planning to the city council.

Last year, I posted a list of the eight types of planning commission authorized by Oklahoma statute. The TMAPC is the sole example of a Title 19, Section 863, joint city-county metropolitan area planning commission for counties over 180,000.

The TMAPC was established at a time when most of Tulsa County was unincorporated, the City of Tulsa was completely contained within Tulsa County, annexing land gradually, as new subdivisions were developed. Today only a tiny amount of land is unincorporated, and most of that is surrounded by a city's fenceline as a reserve for future annexation. The City of Tulsa now extends into four counties. It would make more sense for the City of Tulsa to have its own planning commission, like Oklahoma City has, and for a county planning commission to have jurisdiction over the shrinking amount of unincorporated territory. Each entity already has its own comprehensive plan, zoning code, subdivision regulations, and Board of Adjustment; why not separate planning commissions as well?

MORE: Reader "The A Team" sent me a link to Ryon Sterling's 2007 thesis for his OU master's degree in Architectural Urban Studies. The thesis was a study of Tulsa's neighborhood associations based on survey responses. It's an interesting read. Stirling calls for city-defined standards for neighborhood associations:

I am confident that it is necessary for the City of Tulsa to reexamine the current guidelines regarding Neighborhood Associations and proceed by establishing a definition for the Associations to clarify and standardize what it means to be a Neighborhood Association--from boundaries, to membership, to by-laws. I suspect this will be a challenge since the Neighborhood Associations have been able to self define, in some cases for decades, but it is essential if Neighborhood Associations are to be used in a large way for planning purposes in the update to the Comprehensive Plan and are eligible to receive public dollars from Vision 2025 funds or future neighborhood funding measures. It has been suggested by this committee that a tiered system be examined as one possibility to attend to these concerns.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Zoning category from January 2011.

Tulsa Zoning: July 2010 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Zoning: February 2011 is the next archive.

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