By CHARLES CANTRELL
PLANNING FRUITION: Area leaders are supporting the Arkansas River Plan, a result of years of input from various communities, governments, individuals and planning professionals. In support of the plan and hoping for a countywide vote in October are, from left, Tulsa Young Professionals representative Risha Grant, Tulsa County Commission Chairwoman Randi Miller, Arvest Bank CEO and Co-Chair of the Arkansas River Master Plan Committee Don Walker, Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor and Executive Director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation Ken Levit. A group of private donors, led by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, announced recently a $100 million gift to enhance a large portion of the 42 mile Arkansas River corridor in support of implementing the Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG) master river development plan.
ALICIA SHRUM for GTR Newspapers
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Kay
Growth in a community can be a two edged sword. It can provide economic opportunity and jobs or it can spin out of control creating more problems than it solves. The City of Tulsa and surrounding city governments are hard at work on plans designed to guide the growth of their communities and provide for the common good. It’s not an easy task according to Pat Treadwell, manager of planning and economic development for the City of Tulsa.
“1978 was the last time the City of Tulsa updated its comprehensive plan and obviously much has changed since then. Over the years development has sometimes managed to be ahead of the city’s infrastructure development creating problems with traffic, flood control, water and sewage. We need to do a better job of staying in front of this through better planning and an updated comprehensive plan is an important part of that. We also need to address infill development issues to accommodate inner city growth and other issues. We’re well underway in doing that and we are in contact with surrounding communities who are working on plans of their own to make sure our plans for the future will coordinate with theirs.”
Treadwell and others at City Hall understand Tulsa’s comprehensive plan needs to dovetail with comparable plans in the adjacent cities of Broken Arrow, Jenks, Owasso, Bixby and others. For this reason they stay in contact with elected officials in these communities to help assure planning coordination.
One example of why development coordination between cities is important is the construction of a new bridge across the Arkansas River and how it would impact the traffic flow into Tulsa’s inner city. Whereas regionally coordinated development plans would not specifically address such a project, they would acknowledge and establish the essential need for cooperation and coordination throughout the area on such projects.
The development of the Arkansas River corridor will provide more opportunities for greater Tulsa communities to work together to create development plans that seamlessly optimize the use of one of the area’s most valuable assets.
“To think what happens development-wise in Jenks, Broken Arrow or any other suburb has no impact on Tulsa and vice versa is folly and will lead to more of the same problems we’ve experienced in the past,” says Treadway.
The city of Bixby is experiencing rapid growth and consequently has brought on board a new City Planner, Eric Enyart. He and other city officials are at work on the preliminary stage of updating the Bixby’s comprehensive development plan. They keep the City of Tulsa in the loop on their progress.
Owasso’s Eric Wiles, Director of Community Development, is heading up an effort by city officials to update their comprehensive plan focusing on a regional approach that will complement the planning strategies of Tulsa and other communities.
According to Wiles, “Owasso’s plan seeks to coordinate land development to complement Rogers and Tulsa Counties and to establish a user friendly environment to help optimize and protect both commercial and residential investments.”
Broken Arrow is the oldest of the south Tulsa suburb communities and according to City Planner Farhad Daroga, their master plan has been updated about every decade since the early 1960s. The most recent update came in 2003 shortly after annexation to the east and northeast increased the fence line boundary of the city by approximately 30 percent.
Unique to Broken Arrow’s approach to land use development is the technique of ascribing levels of density in categories of one to seven, category one being the least dense, up to seven for high density. This approach provides ample control for buffering of various land uses and provides essential development predictability; overall, it helps protect value in residential and commercial real estate investments.
Each of the area communities finds itself in different circumstances regarding future development and will attempt to tailor plans to meet the anticipated needs of their respective community. Because Bixby is relatively early in its development and growth going from a rural farming community to an upscale commuter suburb, its plan will need to address the customary land use issues faced by many suburbs. This is also the case with the expanding communities of Owasso and Broken Arrow. Both suburbs are further along in their growth, but have yet to fill their fence line boundaries and therefore have considerable land development capacity left. This is not the case with Jenks, which finds itself boxed in with little land expansion potential remaining. Much like Tulsa, Jenks’ plan will need to address infill development issues and how best to recycle properties in the most economically viable way. Tulsa’s comprehensive plan will not only need to address issues relevant to outlying communities within its fence line boundary including the Union School District, East Tulsa, West Tulsa, North Tulsa, etc., but also the myriad of development issues unique to mid-town infill development and historic preservation.
As the City of Tulsa’s manager of planning and economic development, Treadway has been tasked with moving the updating of Tulsa’s comprehensive development plan along as fast as possible or, as he likes to put it, “…get our house in order.” The city branded the effort PLANitulsa and provides an interactive page on the city’s Web site to capture comments and ideas from citizens as to what their vision of Tulsa’s future would look like. After soliciting and receiving considerable input from citizens, citizen groups and a number of oversight commissions, the city is winding up the first phase of the update by issuing RFPs (request for proposal)to qualified consulting firms who will bid on compiling all the input and data and working with citizens and city officials in creating and presenting a comprehensive development plan to the mayor and city council for approval.
The good news is all the greater Tulsa area communities are in different stages of updating their comprehensive plans, talking to each other and planning together. They all appear to understand that when it comes to growth and economic development, no community is an island. In short, we’re all in this together.