A Shinier Pearl?
A plan to enact a pilot form-based codes program in the Pearl District finally gets its long-awaited public hearing before the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission on Dec. 7, according to a neighborhood leader.
Jamie Jamieson, chairman of the committee that put the plan together, had hoped to have the plan presented to the TMAPC early this year, but those plans were derailed by the lengthy adoption process for the city's new comprehensive plan. The form-based codes pilot project -- a means of regulating development to achieve a specific urban form, a departure from traditional zoning -- encompasses only a small part of the district, mostly the Village at Central Park housing development and the adjoining Oaklawn Cemetery.
But Jamieson said supporters of the plan are proposing that at the following meeting of the TMAPC, an identical form-based code be presented that will cover the rest of the neighborhood, as well.
"We should have the final code for the whole Pearl District in January," he said.
Even if that plan reaches fruition, Jamieson said, it's not as if the whole of Tulsa will suddenly be operating under a different zoning code. He pointed out that the Pearl District represents only one-quarter of 1 percent of all the territory in the city.
Nevertheless, Jamieson is excited about what the anticipated passage of a form-based code will mean for his district, which is struggling to remake itself into a walkable, sustainable community. He said supporters of the plan have been working on it for several years already, and he's glad to see it on the verge of taking its first step toward becoming official city policy.
"I'll be even gladder when it's reached the stage when it's happened," he said. "It has been painfully slow. When we started about this kind of change for the Pearl District, it wasn't the Pearl District -- it was the Central Park district."
Since then, Jamieson said, neighborhood activists have helped engineer a number of improvements to the neighborhood, including a new pond and landscaping at Centennial Park, the construction of an adjacent community center and the adoption of the 6th Street Infill Plan, an outline of how development should proceed in the district. With all that groundwork done, they were then able to turn their attention to zoning, he said.
"The form-based code is a logical consequence of the (infill) plan," Jamieson said. "We did several years ago what the city is now doing, and that's develop our own zoning code. We're a few years ahead of the city of Tulsa."
With a full-scale rewrite of the city's zoning code called for in the new comprehensive plan, Jamieson believes his district won't be the only one to benefit from the experience of adopting a form-based codes program. He said form-based codes are being adopted throughout cities across the nation, most recently in Miami, and he believes Tulsa will follow suit with its new zoning code.
"I'm certain whether it's called a form-based code or not, it's going to have a lot of form-based code principles in it," he said.
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