This Week's Scary Word: "Moratorium." It was unanimous on Nov. 7: Tulsa planning commissioners recommended approval for an Arkansas developer's plan to build a 595-unit apartment complex in southwest Tulsa.
But the complex, The Greens at Page Belcher, a project of Lindsey Management, remains in the crosshairs of a neighborhood campaign seeking to put the brakes on multi-family development in the Tulsa Hills/West Highlands area.
Councilor Jeannie Cue, whose district includes the area, broached the idea on Nov. 1 of an apartment moratorium for the neighborhood pending completion of a small-area plan to outline future development goals for Tulsa Hills/West Highlands.
She told her fellow councilors in a committee meeting that residents had expressed strong concerns about traffic and crime, and said she would host a public meeting to hear these concerns.
Cue's meeting took place just hours after the Tulsa Metro Area Planning Commission recommended approval for the apartment project -- and the discussion showed quite the contrast in thinking about what development might be appropriate for the neighborhood.
Planning commissioners focused on the zoning that has been established for the apartment's location. The area where the apartments are planned, South Union Avenue near West 71st Street, is in what's known as mixed-use "corridor" zoning in the city's comprehensive plan. Such an area is considered to pair "high-capacity transportation facilities" with a variety of land-uses that explicitly includes multi-family housing.
Dwain Midget, Mayor Dewey Bartlett's designee to the planning commission, said that while he understood the concerns of citizens, "we need density." He added: "That's the only way our city is going to grow."
At Cue's meeting, about 70 people gathered.
"I did not realize that moratorium is a scary word," Cue told the crowd, explaining she did not know if she had enough votes to pass through such a measure. No one with the city could recall a moratorium on apartments in a specific neighborhood, though other cities have apparently enacted such measures.
Various citizens spoke out against the Greens project, including Michael Willis, who introduced himself as a reserve police officer who sometimes patrols the area near South Peoria Avenue and East 61st Street. The area has a large number of apartment complexes and is considered a high-crime area.
"What we're getting into in even talking about this is the same sort of situation" as South Peoria Avenue and East 61st Street, said Willis, who also serves as chief deputy county commissioner for Tulsa County.
One difference is the type of housing. Near S. Peoria Ave., several housing developments are for low-income residents. While Cue said she has had "three other people that have wanted to put Section 8 apartments" in the neighborhood, referring to a type of income-restricted housing, the Lindsey project would be a "Luxury A" development, a company representative told the planning commission.
Cue called for a vote to see if people were interested in speaking out against the Lindsey project in particular, and nearly everyone raised their hands. With a moratorium now apparently off the table, Cue encouraged the crowd to speak to the City Council expressing their concerns about the Greens project. She said the issue will likely come up within the next month to 45 days.
Vision2 Defeat: Even Critics Looking for "Right Way" to Expand Sales Tax Hike. Voters ultimately rejected the ambitious effort to extend a sales tax increase through 2029, and the sting of defeat -- or the exultation of Vision2 opponents -- now turns to the question of what's next for regional issues that remain unresolved.
Perhaps most murky is whether citizens will be asked anytime soon to support projects related to the Arkansas River. In 2007, county voters rejected supporting river-related improvements. While Vision2 contained many components -- and its complexity may have worked against it -- the television commercials and most vocal supporters generally presented a message focused on improving the economy more so than changing the river, though it would have received the second-largest slice of public funding had Vision2 passed.
Topping that list, of course, was the planned airport improvements package. It remains to be seen if major employers will flee the area, but businesses operate on their own timelines -- so it might take years to know the true answer to that question. Organizations like the Tulsa City-County Library and the Tulsa Children's Museum were surely hoping to receive millions in Vision2 dollars earmarked for so-called "quality-of-life" projects, and will now simply have to fight harder for financial support.
But even among the proposal's most vehement detractors, there are stirrings that another ballot proposal might be welcome.
"We can extend Vision2025 the right way," read a Twitter message, in part, from the Twitter account Say No to Vision 2. Doubtlessly, civic leaders are already pondering how -- and when -- to best do exactly that.
Pearl Zoning Again on the Agenda. No planning issue this year has proved as vexing as the proposal to extend form-based code development regulations throughout the Pearl District. But two new revised options will be the focus of a Nov. 28 work session of the Tulsa Metro Area Planning Commission.
The code, which promotes pedestrian-friendly building design, was first placed on the agenda in April. Blessed in concept by city leaders, actually applying the regulations proved to be an elusive goal, with a wide range of business and property owners vocally against the proposal for the roughly 70-block neighborhood just east of downtown.
Now, likely truncated plans will be presented that will almost certainly include the East 6th Street corridor. However, onetime borders of S. Peoria Ave., South Utica Avenue and East 11th Street will likely have a greatly reduced role in at least one of the options presented to commissioners. No vote will take place at the meeting, and the city council will have to weigh in before any changes become permanent.
Tulsa's Diverse Population Will Gather For John Hope Franklin Dinner Nov. 15. The John Hope Franklin Center on Reconciliation's annual dinner may be the most racially diversified gathering this city sees in any given year, which is fitting, given its "larger purpose," as Rabbi Marc Boone Fitzerman of Congregation B'Nai Emunah has said.
"Let old perceptions be set aside. If we were once estranged, let us be at peace ... so that union (can) take the place of discord and quarrel," Fitzerman said in his opening prayer at last year's dinner.
The John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation's focus is on the future, not the past. But its supporters -- who include Tulsa businessmen and women, educators, religious and civic leaders -- believe in "the power of memory to shape a city's history," and that a fuller understanding of its history, particularly of its racial history, is essential.
The 2012 dinner will begin at 6:30 pm Thursday, Nov. 15 at the Greenwood Cultural Center. 322 North Greenwood Avenue. Tickets are $20.
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