Sunday, February 22, 2015

Can the tide be turning?

The "battle" for Turkey Mountain is heating up. Now more than ever, YOU can make a difference. The Tulsa World reports that some of the city counselors are not supportive of the mall in this location. The article is pasted below.

City councilors hesitant about proposed outlet mall near Turkey Mountain

Many of the city councilors who hold the fate of a proposed outlet mall near Turkey Mountain in their hands aren’t thrilled with the location or how the project has been handled.
At least two are on record as saying they could not support Tulsa Premium Outlets in its proposed location on the corner of U.S. 75 and West 61st Street, and another has scheduled a public meeting on the proposal.
The meeting, arranged by Councilor Jeannie Cue, will be held at 6:30 p.m. March 17 at the Marriott Tulsa Hotel Southern Hills, 1902 E. 71st St.
“I want (the developer) to answer the questions that all concerned residents have,” Cue said. “We want to get their input because we have not heard a public comment from them on their plans.”
That meeting will be held the day before the developer of the mall, Simon Property Group, is scheduled to present its rezoning application to the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission.
The commission is a recommending body. The City Council will have the final say on whether the rezoning request is approved or rejected.
Cue, who represents the district where the mall would be built, said her constituents have generally been supportive of the project, but that the overwhelming majority of people she’s heard from are opposed to it.
“I have been getting numerous emails from all over Tulsa County and the surrounding area who are not in favor of it,” Cue said.
She is the only councilor to hear from Simon, and that wasn’t until Friday. Still, she has plenty of unanswered questions.
“I would like to know the cost (to the city),” Cue said. “And have they done a study of the infrastructure needs? What are they asking, because this has not been discussed with the council on what their actual ask is of the city.”
Les Morris, director of public relations for Simon, on Friday provided a list of organizations the company has met with to discuss its project.
They include River Parks, the YMCA, Tulsa Urban Wildlife Coalition, Saint Francis Tulsa Tough, Lee’s Bikes and Tatur Racing as well as other users of Turkey Mountain.
Simon also has met with ODOT, various utility companies, and city Engineering and Planning Commission staff. It also plans to meet with other city councilors before the company goes before the Planning Commission, Morris said in an email.
Clay Bird, director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, said he believes Simon is reaching out to interested parties.
“To the best of my knowledge and from what they’ve told me and what I’ve heard from other groups, they are,” Bird said.
Simon, owner of Woodland Hills Mall, announced plans to construct the upscale outlet mall last year.
It would cover more than 48 acres of private property and include more than 350,000 square feet of leasable space, according to project plans. The only entrance to the mall would be off 61st Street.
The proposal has drawn criticism from Turkey Mountain enthusiasts who are concerned the mall would encroach on trails and spoil the pristine wilderness setting.
Council Chairman Phil Lakin said he and his family have spent countless hours exploring the wilderness area.
“I will always do what I can to support smart development because it’s good for our citizens and government services,” Lakin said. “But this development, in its present form, seems to unnecessarily encroach on a highly unique Tulsa treasure.”
Lakin is CEO of the Tulsa Community Foundation. The foundation is affiliated with the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which owns 139 acres on Turkey Mountain.
Councilor Anna America said she would love to see Tulsa get an outlet mall — and the sales-tax revenue that comes with it — but that it shouldn’t be built in its proposed location.
“It’s an absolute asset for Tulsa,” America said. “I would love to see this mall in Tulsa — just somewhere else.”
America, like other councilors, has heard from constituents concerned about how the proposed mall would affect Turkey Mountain. She said she shares those concerns, but is also troubled by the prospect of the city’s providing tax incentives for public infrastructure needed for the project.
Bird has said previously that the city has had discussions with Simon about creating a Tax Increment Finance District to fund the work.
TIFs allow developers to repay government entities for the construction of public infrastructure related to their projects, often using sales- and property-tax collections.
America said she would rather see a TIF used in another part of town, given that Tulsa Premium Outlets would be built a mile north of Tulsa Hills Shopping Center, which was built using a TIF.
“We have used it in that area,” America said. “I want to be more judicious about where we use those.”
Councilor G.T. Bynum said his experience has shown that developers who reach out to the parties affected by a project are the ones whose projects succeed.
“On this proposal, on something this controversial, the first I heard of any public outreach was in the last few days after plans had already been submitted to the Planning Commission,” Bynum said. “And I have yet to hear from a single Tulsan who likes the proposal. I am keeping an open mind until we see what the Planning Commission recommends, but am so far not very impressed by the approach.”

Our speaking out, letters to the counsel and mayor, and Facebook posts are working AND we need to keep it going. 

Before the mall fiasco, I did not know who my city counselor was. Look at the map below, and see what district you are in.

Then email them a courteous letter expressing your desire to see Turkey Mountain natural--as it should be. Don't know their emails? CLICK HERE

Turkey Mountain is in District Two. I live in District Two (2/10 of a mile from the Turkey Mountain parking lot) and Jeannie and I have exchanged emails a few times. She is not at all sold on the mall going on Turkey, and she can be quite influential with the other eight counselors. Take a few minutes to send an email. If you're lucky and they respond, keep the dialogue open. These city officials work for us, and want to represent us.

If you are so inclined, make this your profile picture on FB. :-)

1 comment:

  1. Early indications are encouraging but we need to keep up the dialog because if they vote against it they are going to be branded as anti-development and anti-job. I appreciate your leadership in this issue TZ