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Council adopts zoning change to allow more housing types around downtown

Oklahoma Tourism

The Tulsa City Council adopted a plan this week intended to encourage development of affordable housing near downtown.

A neighborhood infill overlay will allow additional residential building types, like duplexes and guest houses, which fall between single-family homes and large apartment complexes. Planners hope that will create affordable housing options, which are in short supply.

Buildings with up to eight apartments are currently allowed under the proposal, which was a concern for some residents who commented at Wednesday night’s council meeting. District 1 Councilor Kara Joy McKee said while she thinks the infill overlay is sorely needed, she understands those concerns.

"I would be open to amending the overlay — or to consider amending the overlay to exclude the eight-unit apartments if that's something that the council and council staff — we can work together and look at that. That's not something that I'm dedicated to, we have to have," McKee said.

The council voted 8–1 for the overlay, with District 9 Councilor Jayme Fowler the lone no. It applies to neighborhoods in Districts 1 and 4, but Owen Park, Tracy Park and Buena Vista are excluded. Residents in those neighborhoods expressed overwhelming opposition during a public comment period. While Riverview residents did not, they provided most of the opposition during the meeting's public comment period.

"The proposed zoning changes have the capacity to diminish the aesthetic appeal of the neighborhood and detract from its architectural style," said David Olson.

Riverview residents also complained the overlay’s reduced parking requirements would further crowd their streets with parked cars. Eric Robb said reduced setbacks are an issue, too.

"If they build a townhouse right up to the edge of the property, you just devalue that house, and you devalue that house. And unless they're going to send checks next door, they should not be allowed," Robb said.

Not every Riverview resident to speak, however, was opposed. Rick Eagleton, who has asked the city and Tulsa police for help addressing crime in the area, said he sees it as a good thing.

"New middle-income housing in our neighborhood will bring with it young families and residential density, which are incentive for commercial investment in shops, restaurants and entertainment along the Denver business corridor. This is the kind of change that discourages crime," Eagleton said.

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.
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