At Tuesday’s meeting of the City Council billboards argued, neighbors protested, and Uptown 23rd cleared its final hurdle in the Business Improvement District process.
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In the final step for the Uptown 23rd District to become an official Business Improvement District, the Council approved a resolution and an ordinance to adopt and set an assessment roll for the 2019-2020 fiscal year and approving a sole source Professional Services Agreement with the Uptown 23rd Street Association, Inc.
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Again the Council heard arguments from two billboard companies regarding an application to place a new sign along I-44 near NW 39th St. The applicant has agreed to several suggestions made by the City through Technical Evaluations. A much larger competitor in the billboard business claims that the proposed Simplified Planned Unit Development (SPUD) District was simply an effort to circumvent existing city codes governing signage.
Ward 2 City Councilman James Cooper ultimately moved to deny the application in order to represent the wishes of the people who elected him. The council voted to deny the application.
A later billboard in another ward received similar protests from the large billboard company but was approved.
An application to build two housing units on two lots in the Linwood neighborhood came on for final hearing. The application has been the subject of a great deal of protest from neighbors individually and as a neighborhood association, including formal protest through representation hired by the association.
The original SPUD application represented a plan to build three units on the two lots where previously one house stood. A protest petition was circulated in the neighborhood and among property owners who no longer live in the area. Neighbors showed up at a Planning Commission meeting with printed signs protesting the application. Ultimately, the applicant changed his request to accommodate only two units instead of three. The neighbors acquiesced to this point, though many did so unhappily.
At Tuesday’s meeting one neighbor, Travis Roach, implored to Council to vote no on the SPUD. He said that the neighbors still protest the change, but that they simply couldn’t afford to keep fighting legally.
The neighborhood association’s counsel, Eric Groves, explained to the Council that while they were not formally protesting further, they were not waiving their right to future protest. He said this case turns on a crucial legal question of whether a SPUD trumps an Urban Conservation District designation. He said that question should be settled in a court as a matter of law, and not in the chambers of the City Council.
The Council voted unanimously to approve the amended application.
Michael Washington, an impassioned resident of Oklahoma City’s Northeast Side, addressed the Council regarding plans for the Freedom Center in the proposed MAPS 4 package. His great concern is and has been, that if the Freedom Center project is funded by a MAPS tax, the City of Oklahoma City will take literal ownership of the historic site. “Our history has been taken from us,” he said, adding, “Urban Renewal has seen its final days.”
Mr. Washington has a pending lawsuit for a claim of negligence naming more than 15 people as respondents, regarding his dispute of the ownership of the building at 2609 N Martin Luther King Avenue.