A busy Oklahoma City Council took action Tuesday on bonds, vaping restrictions, and heard reports on planned development added to the Boathouse District and street improvements.
Better Streets progress
Eric Wenger, director of Public Works, and Geoff Butler, Planning Director, brought a presentation on the progress of the Better Streets, Safer City project.
The temporary sales tax for street, sidewalk, and bike infrastructure improvements is expected to generate $240 million over the course of the 27 months it will be collected. In year two, the sales tax has generated $119 million with $47 million being spent.
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$168 million of total program funding has been allocated for street resurfacing, $24 million of program funding is allocated for sidewalks, and $12 million allocated each for bicycle infrastructure and trail enhancements. Twenty-one miles of sidewalks have been built so far, along with resurfacing of 38 miles of streets and nine miles of trails.
The entire annual report can be found at okc.gov/bettersafer.
Later in the meeting, the Council adopted an update to the Community and Neighborhood Enhancement Program Project Implementation Plan and approved allocation of $3,694,284 in Better Streets Safer City Sales Tax funds.
The Council authorized the sale of $60,215,000 of General Obligation Bonds, Taxable Series 2020, and the sale of $51,265,000 of GO Bonds, Series 2020. Bonds are the way Oklahoma City borrows money. Typically, institutional investors purchase the bonds. I really don’t know enough about bonds to say more than that. If you know bonds, go wild with that information.
An amended ordinance was passed that restricts vaping in all places smoking tobacco products is already forbidden. This ordinance was amended as the original wording of the ordinance singled out the vaping of marijuana.
Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper thanked colleagues for broadening the definitions of the ordinance to not single out medical marijuana but went on to say that he couldn’t, in good conscience, vote for the ordinance as it restricts where people can consume medicine. The ordinance passed 8-1 with only Cooper voting against.
Allocation of $750,000 of tax increment finance, or TIF district money for the Bar K Economic Development Project was discussed. Bar K is a high-end dog park, bar, and concert venue concept with a location already open in Kansas City.
The company plans to open a new location in the Boathouse District. The district is operated by the Boathouse Foundation under the trademark “Riversport.”
Free Press has reported bailouts from the City of over $1 million for the foundation. It has struggled to raise enough money to fund its many operations after a key donor, Aubrey McClendon, died suddenly in a single-car auto crash in 2016.
The $750,000 is proposed for the building of a parking lot that will serve the new development and other parts of the Riversport facilities in the district.
Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon* said she had difficulty supporting the allocation. In the same meeting that Bar K’s management gave a presentation on their business plan, the council also received a report on the drastically under-utilized parking lots and garages in downtown Oklahoma City.
Hamon pointed out that there is ample unused parking a mere ten-minute walk along the Bricktown canal from the proposed site of the new parking lot.
City Manager Craig Freeman countered that the area of the proposed parking lot was not part of the study referenced at the last meeting. Hamon said that it’s across the street from the study area.
The measure passed 8-1, with Hamon alone voting in opposition. The Boathouse Foundation and District will now receive another three-quarters of a million dollars.
Eastside grocery tensions
During comments from Council, Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice pointed out that it has now been 100 days since the promised 90-day wait for a new grocery store has elapsed since the closure of the last full-service grocery by the same owner July 2019. She said she was hearing that the experienced business people who promised to bring a new store had failed to secure a permit for planned construction work.
During comments from residents, two residents of the neighborhood spoke, each asking if there was personal animosity at work in the slow progress of the promised grocery store.
Nice responded that she was simply waiting for these unnamed business people to make good on their promise to build a new store.
The next meeting of the Council will be on March 3 at 8:30 a.m.
*Disclosure: JoBeth Hamon is the wife of this reporter.
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