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Planning Commission Green Lights Arkansas River Development Restrictions

Matt Trotter, KWGS; TMAPC

Enhanced zoning rules for the Arkansas River corridor won approval this week from Tulsa’s planning commission.

City Councilor Phil Lakin recently spearheaded a trip to Dallas and Fort Worth to look at river development there. He’s in favor of the proposal.

"There are opportunities that we have along the river for developing the land for higher and better uses, in my opinion," Lakin said. "We have the opportunity to do it the right way rather than do it in piecemeal fashion."

Warren Ross, head of construction firm Ross Group, said the overlay has some loopholes but he supports it.

"But it does allow for some framework to be put in place that tries to enhance and beautify Riverside Drive — not for today, but for the next 50 years, the next 100 years," Ross said.

The regulations would prohibit things like strip clubs, car dealers and drive thrus.

Bob Parker represents the owner of 7000 Riverside. He anticipates more than 30,000 cars will travel along the road each day and thinks the drive-thru ban is too much.

"It'd be really cool to have a drive-thru Dunkin' Donuts or something like that," Parker said. "I don't think a drive-thru access restricts what could be the use of someone walking or driving there."

The regulations are intended to encourage denser pedestrian- and outdoor-friendly projects. The proposal now goes before Tulsa’s city council, which put in place in September a moratorium on new developments that’s nearly identical to the overlay.

River development has been a big issue for city leaders recently, especially with the passage of Vision Tulsa. The funding package will pay for two low-water dams.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.