The Oklahoma City Council took many twists and turns through a tense exchange over MAPS 4, down-zoning for marijuana growing, parking, economic development, and new businesses arriving.
Truly a little something for everyone.
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The Council considered a request to downgrade the zoning classification for 10.8 acres in Ward 1 from single-family residential to AA agricultural. The applicant has livestock and also wants to start a medical marijuana grow operation.
To absolutely nobody’s surprise, some neighbors aren’t sold on the idea.
One neighbor explained that an article she read said fumes from marijuana grow operations have caused literal headaches for some. She pointed to her child in the audience who held a sign that appealed to the council to “just say no to reverse discrimination.” She did not explain what the sign meant.
Another neighbor previously lived in Colorado and said that with the legal marijuana trade came illegal marijuana trade as well. She said “the cartels” have taken over parts of Colorado and that it is impossible to go into some public parks without fear of being mugged by pot addicts.
Ward 1 Councilman James Greiner said that nothing in the law proscribes allowing this. He said as a property rights advocate he was compelled to vote in favor of the new zoning. Ward 4 Councilman Todd Stone asked Greiner if he would feel the same way if it was a 1,000 pig hog farm. Greiner said yes.
The re-zoning passed with Ward 3, 4, 5, and 7 Councilors McAtee, Stone, Greenwell, and Nice voting against.
Two businesses are opening in Oklahoma City with some financial assistance from the city. Bakery Bling, a large specialty baking company from California, is relocating their headquarters to Ward 3. Bar K, a bar and dog park, is opening a location in Oklahoma soon.
Bakery Bling is refurbishing and building out a facility in a building that was once a big box retailer but has sat empty for some time. The company will receive investment proceeds from the City in the amount of $400,000 for job creation.
The founder of the company explained that they already have 20 employees on the ground in Oklahoma City and that they expect to have a staff of 300 soon. The average wage, she said, will be nearly $50,000 in the beginning and will rise from there. No mention was made of the bottom wage and top wage of the company.
Bar K, described as “Top Golf for dog lovers,” will be building a new location in the struggling Boathouse District with the help of $750,000 from the City.
The facility will have indoor and outdoor dog park play areas, a restaurant that is open seven days a week, a performance venue, and more.
When asked about the parking requirements in the plan, the presenter explained that at their Kansas City location they routinely have 300 cars in the parking lot.
He missed a valuable opportunity to refer to it as a “barking lot”, however.
A resolution to appoint an advisory board for MAPS 4 implementation came on for consideration, accompanied by an amendment suggested by Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon*.
The original resolution refers to the advisory board as a “Citizens Advisory Board” throughout.
Hamon’s amendment would change the word “citizen” to “resident” in all uses that it would be legal to do so. Her amendment was swiftly voted down with only Ward 2’s James Cooper and Ward 7’s Nikki Nice joining Hamon in her vote.
That put the original resolution back up for a vote which passed 8-1 with Hamon voting no.
The findings of a study of parking in the downtown area commissioned by EMBARK were presented. The study focused on the area from NW 13th St south to the Oklahoma Boulevard between I-235 and Classen Boulevard with goals such as balancing on-street and off-street parking and fostering better management of parking assets.
The study found that all districts in the study experienced peak parking occupancy in the noon to 3:00 p.m. range, except Bricktown, where peak occupancy was from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
The total peak parking occupancy across all districts was 36%. The study area includes 1,200 acres, 256 acres of which is dedicated to parking. During peak occupancy, there are 186 acres of unused parking. That amounts to empty parking spots that would fill 141 football fields.
The answer to this? More parking!
Just kidding, that is absolutely not what the study showed.
Recommendations from the study largely had to do with using what parking we have better. For example, eliminating any free parking in the area of events (near the arena, for example) so that drivers not finding parking on the street will utilize parking garages rather than congesting nearby streets while driving around searching for a free spot.
Better wayfinding and marketing were also suggested, as well as better enforcement of the existing parking ordinances.
MAPS 3 Streetscape
A presentation was given on proposed efforts to create a “street experience” in conjunction with the new MAPS 3 convention center. The proposed design features some canopies. They are close together and provide shelter from rain and snow.
The plan is budgeted at approximately $4 million.
The next meeting of the City Council will be on February 18 at 8:30 a.m.
*Disclosure: Hamon is married to this reporter.
Last Updated February 4, 2020, 4:37 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor