POSTED ON JULY 11, 2012:
An Open Letter to the City
Businessman accuses planning group of dithering and prevarication
Editor's Note: A form-based code regulating property development in the Pearl District has firm support from the Pearl District Association (PDA), but not from all business and property owners within the district located just east of downtown. This letter sent to UTW is from the developer of townhouse development The Village at Central Park, and is addressed to Joshua Walker, chair of the planning group yet to vote on implementing the code. It refers to a decision earlier this year to allow expansion of a QuikTrip store (Planned Unit Development 588-A) in a way not in compliance with the code.
Chair, Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission c/o INCOG,
Dear Mr. Walker,
The City of Owasso recently developed and passed a form-based code for its most significant commercial zone in a fraction of the time it has taken INCOG and the Metropolitan Planning Commission to fumble their way through the Pearl's form-based code.
Owasso's new Code covers an area four times the size of the area proposed by the Pearl District.
A form-based code also will underpin Oklahoma City's massive and inspiring 'Core to Shore' project.
Meanwhile, here in Tulsa the TMAPC dithers and prevaricates in spite of years of hard, detailed work leading to an excellent new Code, developed by a nationally-recognized Code-writer, enlightened business owners, business owners, home owners, residents and developers: in short, by people who represent the future, not the discredited past of a Zoning Code that has laid waste urban neighborhoods nationwide.
The TMAPC still fails to grasp the significance and benefits of a 'form'-based code that has been in front of it for years. You have instead indulged the dismal campaign of a tiny minority still intent on destroying the code -- a campaign characterized by disinformation, distortion, ignorance, half-truths, cheap stunts, personal attacks, ideological posturing and legalistic parsing.
The result is the sharply diminished scope brought to you by the City's Planning Department for Wednesday's (July 11, 2012) work session.
It chops out half of the Pearl from the new Code.
It substantially reduces the choice of properties and locations for re-development in the Pearl in line with the Code.
It undoes much of the work done by volunteers in the Pearl District at the City's and INCOG's request and with INCOG's staffing and the public's taxes.
As to the Regulating Plan's alleged non-conformance to the Comprehensive Plan: when the 6th St. Infill Plan was written the City's command of the detail of a form-based code was limited. When more fully educated by one of the country's leading form-based code writing consultants, Ferrell Madden (which INCOG appointed to write the code) we saw the opportunity for the new Code to deal with so-called 'auto-centric' areas intelligently in deploying both the 'Workshop' and 'Urban General' frontages. These also address the pedestrian realm very effectively. Many of the older buildings in the Pearl's 'auto-centric' area already conform substantially to the new Code, and businesses operate from them. Accordingly we consider this approach a development of -- and consistent with - the 6th. St. Plan.
The term 'auto-centric' has no place in a land use code, and certainly not in a form-based code. A form-based code centers on a public realm designed first and foremost for people, not for automobiles. The car is secondary to the human being, even though you have to park it somewhere. And a driver becomes a pedestrian the moment she steps out of a car. Other city policies and practices outside the scope of the form-based code deal with the automobile, including the CoT's new Complete Streets policy.
Our combined efforts -- including INCOG's staff, in the form of the much-missed Duane Cuthbertson, who moved to Nashville -- led to a Code and to a Regulating Plan that continues to be our strong preference.
I hope that TMAPC very soon draws a line under what is an increasingly embarrassing and unedifying spectacle for the City of Tulsa and for those of us who want Tulsa to progress, not stagnate. Opponents of this enlightened and progressive new Code appear to have succeeded in diminishing it, in diminishing the future of the Pearl District and with them the future prospects for Tulsa as a whole. This was also true of the equally dismal PUD 588-A case at Utica and 11th. St., which was a transparent, proxy attack on the new Code.
Those of us in the Pearl District who agreed to collaborate with the City, when asked to do so by the City of Tulsa in May 2000, are developers, property owners, business owners and residents of the Pearl District. Some of us have since left Tulsa or given up in despair at the snail-like pace of change in Tulsa's counter-productive land use policies. We are now publicly vilified for our collaboration and our willingness to embrace change and initiate progress. The TMAPC itself has made clear your hostility to the Pearl District and our strategies for an urban future through your prevarications with this Code and earlier decisions. It is pretty clear to us that some members of TMAPC have not the slightest understanding of this Code at all, still less of the benefits it confers on all stakeholders. Instead you seem to be parsing, improvising and horse-trading it to death.
We don't like what the Planning Dept. is proposing. We believe the TMAPC should adopt the Regulating Plan as originally drawn up and presented. Contrary to the most recent bids to delay it and snip it up into even smaller and more irrelevant pieces, it should include all of Utica Ave. within the Pearl, and the east side of Utica, in keeping with best planning practice. Finally, it would be a nonsense to make the Code 'optional'. The evidence from benchmark cities and experts make this clear.
Chair, Urban Design Committee, PDA
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