In another marathon meeting of the Oklahoma City Planning Commission, the body considered the Healthy Neighborhoods overlay ordinance and some vague plans in the Plaza District.
The Commission also had discussions on responsible parking and responsible meeting planning. Nobody was entirely satisfied.
How the sausage gets made
In a rare oversight, members of the Commission received incomplete packets in advance of their regular meeting. Only four items from the agenda were included in the original packet circulated to Commissioners. The complete packet was eventually available online for review, but not all members were able to review the items ahead of Thursday’s meeting.
It was decided that since City staff were available for questions as always, and most members were able to go over the packet, the Commission would go ahead and hear all items not continued. That included going through the consent docket item by item, which proved to be quite boring.
It was a brilliant illustration of why the consent docket exists.
The Healthy Neighborhoods Overlay ordinance proposed for Ward 7’s 73111 zip code came on for final approval by the Commission. As this ordinance has been discussed at length in City Council, the Planning Commission’s consideration seemed to be a forgone conclusion. In fact, it was. But formality required listening to protests and questions.
John Pettis came to speak against the ordinance. Pettis claimed that the ordinance was not necessary. He said that other neighborhoods had poor health and that if this overlay would be applied to the area in question it should be applied to the entire city.
Pettis seemed especially concerned about an application regarding a lot at 2410 NE 23rd Street that had been continued multiple times. His concern was that the ordinance is preventing businesses from opening in the neighborhood and creating jobs.
Pettis seemed particularly interested in the application for that address. He mentioned it several times.
People who own properties or live in the 73111 zip code came to ask for clarification about what the overlay would mean for them.
One woman asked if the overlay would allow her to change the zoning of a residential property she owns to commercial zoning. The ordinance does not change any zoning.
Another neighbor asked repeatedly if the overlay meant that all businesses must now offer 500 square feet of fresh food. He also asked if all new businesses would be required to offer that. The answer to both questions was no.
Any “small box discount retail store” will be required to offer fresh food according to the new overlay. The language has proven confusing for many people in the neighborhood as well as outside of it.
The ordinance was passed on to the City Council for final consideration.
An application for a Simplified Planned Unit Development District rezoning at 1625 NW 16th came on for hearing.
The applicant has brought the item before the Planning Commission before, but faced protest and withdrew the application in order to find ways to better fit into the neighborhood.
The applicant addressed the recommendations of city staff item by item. For some members of the Commission and for at least one neighbor, architect Sam Day, the answers were too vague and came too late for a vote today.
Some members of the Commission intimated to the applicant that if they must vote today they would vote against the application. The applicant was encouraged to allow the application to be continued until the next meeting so that all vagaries could be clarified for the Commission and the concerned stakeholders in the neighborhood.
Ultimately, the applicant acquiesced on this point and the Commission voted to continue the item.
The discussion on the rezoning issue in the Plaza District led to a discussion of the preparedness of the Commission to hear some of the items that come before them.
At-Large Commissioner Rusty LaForge pointed out that the Commission had, after being in this meeting for three hours or more, only just begun a conversation that could take hours. He said that without the items being better planned the Commission will continue to have longer and longer meetings.
The length of meetings was discussed at length and then the meeting adjourned with no action taken to shorten future meetings.
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