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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The City Council of Oklahoma City met Tuesday morning for a refreshingly brief three and a half hours.

During that time, Council approved forward progress on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system coming to Northwest Oklahoma City in the next two years. Meanwhile, a planned redevelopment of a public housing site on the Northeast side met with resistance and concern from two members of the Council.

Additionally, the Council approved of a private non-profit faith-based transitional living community in western Oklahoma City.

The Council also approved ward redistricting with no fanfare or even conversation at Tuesday’s meeting.

Mayor Holt was absent for the entire meeting, and Vice-Mayor Mark Stonecipher (Ward 8 Councilman) presided over the meeting.

Members Cooper, Nice, and Hamon were alone in wearing masks.

Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell left approximately 15 minutes before the Council recessed to executive session.

Bus Rapid Transit

The Bus Rapid Transit system coming soon to Oklahoma City was again the focus of conversation and one vote at Tuesday’s Council meeting.

EMBARK officials show new Bus Rapid Transit plans in virtual town hall

Free Press has reported previously on the expansive and high-frequency new bus line coming to Oklahoma City soon.

On Tuesday, the Council received a report updating them on planning and design, and specifically focused on the platforms for BRT stops along the route.

The BRT has a price tag of nearly $29 million. Of that money, approximately $17 million will be dedicated to the construction of new platforms that allow embarking at the platform level, making ADA access much easier.

Additionally, street enhancements to accommodate platforms will be made over the construction phase. Intersections like the one at NW 23rd and Classen will need more infrastructure to make the intersection more compliant and friendly to ADA requirements and the users who need those protections.

The Council unanimously approved a call for bids for the station stops along the route from downtown to Northwest Expressway at Meridian.

These bids do not include the manufacturing of buses, which is almost finished. Buses are expected to be delivered in the next two months. The bids also don’t cover the building of two “Park & Ride” lots along the BRT route.

Free Press will continue to report on the BRT as it develops.

Public Housing

The Oklahoma City Housing Authority (OCHA) joined with the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust on Tuesday to seek approval of a joint resolution to use General Obligation Limited Tax (GOLT) Bond money for a public housing and mixed use development on Oklahoma City’s Northeast side.

The site, referred to as Creston Park, is situated at NE 28th Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard. The plan is to build new housing units and commercial spaces.

Tuesday’s meeting considered an economic incentive of $1,250,000 to OCHA for Phase One of the development.

OCHA Executive Director Mark Gillett gave the shortest of presentations to the council, as though approval were a foregone conclusion.

Gilllety described the new development as being something that will “transform the Northeast side” and give residents and businesses a “reason to feel proud” to be in that part of town.

Objections

Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice expressed grave concern about the project, as she has in the past.

Nice pointed out that residents have been displaced in this process already, in spite of OCHA leadership promising that wouldn’t happen.

Nice played a video of Assistant Executive Director Ian Colgan at a town hall informational meeting explaining the plans to community members. In that video, Colgan declares that OCHA would first build some 70 units of housing, so that residents could be moved into new units before old units were demolished.

Nikki Nice
Ward 7 OKC City Councilor Nikki Nice speaks to the 21cp report about policing on March 1, 2022 (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Instead, Nice said, those residents have been displaced already, and no construction nor demolition has commenced.

Nice said that she would not support introducing the item on Tuesday, nor approval of the item when it returns to Council. She concluded her comments by promising Gillett that she would be at future OCHA meetings and would be bringing residents with her.

Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper also voiced concerns that promises made to the public were not being followed to their end.

City Manager Craig Freeman said that the process met the requirements of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Freeman was not challenged by anybody on the horseshoe in his assertion. Freeman’s point was that even though OCHA broke their promises, they didn’t break the law. That would be cold comfort for residents displaced.

The introduction of the agreement passed 5-3 with Ward 1 Councilman Bradley Carter joining Cooper and Nice in voting against the introduction.

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, during “Comments from Council,” Nice declared that she would be seeking an audit of OCHA.

The issue will return for public hearing in two weeks at the April 12 meeting of Council.

Lazarus Community

One zoning item came before the Council on Tuesday that was quite different from a typical re-zoning application.

Reverend Bo Ireland of Clark Memorial United Methodist Church addressed the Council about the planned transitional living community at his parish.

The Lazarus Community is a new kind of project for Oklahoma City.

Ireland says the church’s plan is to have five or so core members of the congregation, including Ireland and his family, moving onto the grounds at the church. Additionally, twenty or more small housing structures will be built for people who are transitioning from street homelessness into housing.

The housing will resemble a classic monastic environment, with a focus on community and mutual assistance in times of struggle, a classic tenant of Methodist theology.

Details are yet to be formalized for the new community, but the application was approved unanimously at Tuesday’s Council meeting, meaning the church will be able to move forward in their potentially transformative plans.

Redistricting

After months of planning and discussion, both publicly and behind closed doors, the Council formally adopted the redistricting of all 8 wards in Oklahoma City.

At Tuesday’s meeting, no member of council and no member of the public spoke any words about the redistricting.

Go to an interactive map of the new city wards to see their new configuration and find out what ward you are in.

The next meeting of the City Council for Oklahoma City will be April 12 at 8:30 a.m. at City Hall, 200 N. Walker.


*Disclosure: Reporter Marty Peercy is the husband of Oklahoma City Council member JoBeth Hamon.

Last Updated March 29, 2022, 4:24 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor