POSTED ON DECEMBER 29, 2010:
Not So Fast
Pearl District's zoning plan approval process continues
The Waiting is the Hardest Part. Jamie Jameson, who chaired the Pearl District Association committee that put the plan together, said he was a little disappointed the plan wasn’t approved earlier this month, but he understood the reasoning behind the delay.
Supporters who had hoped to see a new zoning plan approved for Tulsa's Pearl District before the end of the year will have to wait a little bit longer.
Members of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission continued a public hearing on a pilot form-based codes plan for the neighborhood just east of downtown at their Dec. 7 meeting so that members of the city's legal staff could make sure it fits within the framework of the city's current structure, according to Duane Cuthbertson, the Board of Adjustment planner for the city and county of Tulsa.
"The Planning Commission didn't want to pass on a code that still needed to be cleaned up before it goes to the City Council," he said.
Cuthbertson emphasized any changes to the language of the plan likely would be minor, characterizing the legal staff's review as a housekeeping measure. The public hearing will be continued at the TMAPC's Feb. 2 meeting.
"This was granted, really, to allow the staff of the city attorney's office to resolve some inconsistencies and make sure it fits within the city's existing regulatory framework," he said. "For so long, we were focused on the standards, things like building setbacks. Now we're looking at the way it's actually written."
Jamie Jamieson, who chaired the Pearl District Association committee that put the plan together, said he was a little disappointed the plan wasn't approved earlier this month, but he understood the reasoning behind the delay.
"It would have been nice to get it done at that meeting, but this is the law, so it has to be done right," he said.
Jamieson said he wasn't worried about the new review of the plan by city officials.
"The substance of it is set and has been for some time," he said.
Jamieson said the delay would give Cuthbertson time to present and review the plan with various stakeholders, including residents, developers and zoning lawyers. He said the plan drew mostly favorable comment during the Dec. 7 public hearing, with only one property owner voicing concerns about her plans to build a parking lot.
Even so, he said he isn't taking anything for granted at the Feb. 2 meeting.
"I wouldn't be surprised if people come out of the woodwork to oppose it -- as is their right," he said.
The form-based code is an integral part of the Pearl District Association's plan to revitalize the neighborhood, which is roughly bordered by U.S. 75 on the west, 3rd Street on the north, Utica Avenue on the east and 11th Street on the south. The association hopes to establish the Pearl District as a walkable, sustainable, urban community that is diverse, intriguing and charming.
Cuthbertson has described form-based codes as an alternative to traditional zoning, explaining that a form-based code fosters predictable built results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form, rather than a separation of uses, as its organization principle. The code is adopted into city law as a regulation, not mere guidelines, he has said.
The Pearl District would be the first neighborhood in the city to adopt a form-based code if the pilot project is adopted first by the Planning Commission and then later the City Council. The pilot project includes only a small part of the district and is defined generally by U.S. 75h on the west, 5th Place on the north, Peoria Avenue on the east and 11th Street on the south.
But supporters hope to expand the project to cover the entirety of the Pearl District in short order.
"At the subsequent (TMAPC) meeting in mid February or at the beginning of March, we want to adopt a regulating plan for the rest of the Pearl District," Jamieson said.
Cuthbertson said that expansion conceivably could occur immediately after the pilot project is approved by the City Council, though he noted it is more likely a public information session will need to be scheduled first to address any concerns or questions from residents or business owners.
"My expectation is that we'll put out a notice that we're having a public meeting and say, 'Hey, we're going to broaden the reach of the form-based code. Let's talk about how we apply it,' " he said. "We don't want to have that fight in front of the Planning Commission."
Cuthbertson said if the Planning Commission votes to adopt the plan at its Feb. 2 meeting, it shouldn't take long for the council to take up the issue.
"I think we could be in front of the council the following week," he said.
Adoption of a form-based code for the entire district likely won't be far behind, he said.
"We could have everything in place by spring to have a code that covers the entire Pearl -- if everybody's in lockstep," he said.
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