By DEWEY F. BARTLETT, JR.
After many months of citizen participation and review by both business and government experts on community planning, Tulsa’s next comprehensive plan, known as PLANiTULSA, has been sent to the City Council for their review and approval. PLANiTULSA lays out concepts for how the City of Tulsa will look, function and feel over the next 20 to 30 years and describes the kinds of places, economy, housing, open space and transportation choices that the city’s policies should be designed to create.
The City Council has 45 days to either accept the plan as submitted or to return the plan to the Tulsa Metropolitan Planning Commission for further work. It is my hope that after two years of hard work and many conversations with Tulsa residents that the City Council will embrace and approve this plan as submitted so that we can then begin the important work of implementing the proposed strategies.
First and foremost of these implementation strategies is to revise the city’s zoning code. As the plan lays out, it is imperative that we have a new code that will allow “a diverse range of mixed use building types, allow innovative automobile parking solutions and aligns development incentives with over arching planning goals.” Revising the city’s zoning code could take as long as a year and require the expertise of zoning professionals. It’s my view, that the hiring of an outside firm for this task should be given serious consideration and I believe the one time funding for this important project is available.
Along with a revised zoning code we need to create a redevelopment strategy that “broadens the range of housing options, creates new spaces for different types of employers, and makes efficient use of existing infrastructure. “We will also need to develop a transportation strategy and conduct neighborhood and small area planning.
Carrying forward with this plan will require a high degree of coordination and skill. While most of the key development will come through the private sector, the city must develop a process that is clear and easy to follow. Currently, many of Tulsa’s planning and development functions are spread out between many agencies and departments. This decentralization which has occurred over time often impedes the implementation of new strategies and development.
As the report states: “For PLANiTULSA to be successful it is critical that the city coordinate development related activities so they work together to effectively address changes desired by Tulsans. Tulsa should enhance staff capacity and technical skills and consider organizational changes that will allow the city to lead in local land use decision making.” These same types of observations regarding the city’s planning efforts have recently surfaced in the strategic review analysis of city government conducted by . Direct coordination and consolidation of these many efforts with measurable goals based on the PLANiTULSA strategic plan must be in place.
As part of the implementation strategy to coordinate development and related activities, it’s my view that it’s time for the city to have a Director of Planning. Someone with the highest of qualifications in making sure that the implementation strategies stay on track, stay coordinated and stay focused on the major themes found in PLANiTULSA. It is important to me, and to all of those who have worked these past 2 years in the PLANiTULSA process, that we work to create the implementation framework.
This is an opportunity to take a major step forward in building a brighter future for our city. I want to thank the countless number of citizens who have helped shape this plan and I look forward to continuing our work together to make your vision a reality.