Alva Review-Courier -

No agreement on suspension of zoning changes for Alva

 

October 24, 2021



The main discussion during the Alva City Council meeting Monday, Oct. 18, concerned rezoning requests. First, the council considered a change in zoning to 411 Olive Street. The Planning Commission approved changing that property from RG8 to RG6. Fire Chief Bryan Miller explained that RG8 meant the lot needed to have 8,000 sq. ft. in order to build a structure. However, this lot is smaller. The property owner tore down the existing structure and now found zoning prevented building anything. Stetson Vore wanted to build a large steel building for storage and an apartment.

Councilmembers questioned whether a large steel building would fit into current zoning and building codes. Randy Stelling said the building requirements would be handled by existing codes. Stelling made a motion to approve the zoning change to RG6, seconded by Brooks, and it passed unanimously.

Suspension of Zoning Change Requests

Next the council discussed a recommendation passed on by the Planning Commission to suspend any further zoning change requests pending finalization of the strategic plan. Mayor Parker said it’s been two years since the city began work on a strategic plan for zoning. It was put on hold last year due to Covid-19 protocols. Parker said the city needs to get the long term plan in place “for consistency’s sake,” defining commercial and residential areas.

The Planning Commission has had numerous requests for rezoning recently, but they need a long term plan in place “so they are not trying to guess what is going to be an appropriate or inappropriate future use of the property,” said Parker At their next meeting, there will be a public hearing and the Planning Commission should be hearing the first recommendation for the Oklahoma Boulevard corridor, and then it will be presented to the city council. Since the entire plan is not ready to be presented to the council, Parker said he thinks it important to get moving on parts of it.

Daniel Winters asked, “What’s their expected time frame of having a finalization?”

“In January?” Parker questioned as he turned to City Business Manager Angelica Brady. She said, “It’s turned out to be a little bigger than what we thought it would be.” Parker answered January or maybe longer.

Winters asked about including a time frame in the suspension motion instead of leaving it open-ended. “I’m not opposed to that,” said Parker.

Stelling, who is a member of the strategic planning committee working on zoning, said delays were caused by the change in city managers and Covid. “It has been lax,” he said. Stelling said he’s not as concerned about the commercial corridors as he is about residential zoning changes being put in a bind.

Fire Chief Miller, the interim city inspector, spoke up, “When you guys determine the date, there are a lot of legal notices. When we change someone from say an RG8 to a commercial zone, we still are required to notify everyone around there and that property owner so once that 14 days and public notice in the paper … it takes time. Don’t short yourself on this.

“As we go through this process, it takes several weeks to get one property done, and we’re doing multiple, multiple properties right now, and we’re on week two.”

“If possible, I’d like to see a suspension on any type of commercially zoned, not necessarily the RG’s (residential) stuff,” said Stelling.

Brooks objected to the effect on property owners, “Basically we’re suspending their rights. I know there are some issues with it, but it’s an issue of their property rights.”

Winters said it appears there need to be “way more stipulations” in the time frame of the suspension. “We’re talking about the (Oklahoma) Boulevard corridor and having that completed in say two weeks. This is saying until the finalization of a strategic plan, not a review of that particular zoning area,” he said.

“If we finish part of it, in my opinion, that part’s ready to go,” said Parker.

Winters said he was thinking a time frame of 180 days or six months. That would be during the winter when most zoning changes slow down. He asked Miller if 180 days would give them enough time.

“To do the whole town?” asked Miller. “If you guys haven’t had an opportunity to look at the zoning map, I implore you to come to my office or come to City Hall and let me explain that to you, to show it to you. We have a lot of issues. That’s why you’re seeing so many of these (rezoning requests). One hundred and eighty days is a lot of work. We could probably get Oklahoma Boulevard, College Avenue, 281 South and get all the commercial neighborhoods taken care of in 180 days, and have all the public meetings.”

“My biggest thing is, if we’re going to suspend it, I want to see progress in opening that back up,” said Winters. “What Troy’s (Brooks) saying, I think that’s a valid point. This is people’s property and we’re saying, ‘You’re stuck’.”

Parker said a plan could be in place, whether or not it’s gone through all the notices and legal processes, much more quickly. “We can’t approve it (without the legal process),” said Winters. “No, we can’t approve it, but that would be the plan you’re looking for,” said Parker.

Stelling suggested the motion just suspend commercial changes. After some discussion, Winters clarified, “So what you’re saying is we’re not converting anything to commercial.” Stelling agreed.

“That could be very detrimental to business growth,” said Winters. He said there wasn’t a lot of space in the “commercial corridors” for people to put in a business.

Miller disagreed saying there was quite a bit of space that is zoned agricultural that needs to be changed to commercial, citing areas to the east and the west. “By what you’re proposing doing, we’re stopping that,” said Winters.

“Is it possible to go back to the Planning Commission and ask them to narrow their field of issues and not just apply a blanket?” asked Taylor Dowling. “Or not doing it and maybe table this and see what they can work out?”

“The worry is that they’re (Planning Commission) going to approve something and it’s not going to be consistent with what the overall plan is moving forward,” said Parker.

City Attorney Rick Cunningham said, “They have asked a suspension until the finalization of a strategic plan, not that it is in place, not until the corridors are all commercial, not that the people have been notified. They’re just saying develop a grand plan, because even then with that plan, they can start acting again.”

“Is there some time frame for just developing that plan?” Cunningham asked. “Can that be done in sixty days, not giving notice to every single landowner?’”

“I think that plan is already loosely established,” said Parker.

After some more discussion, Winters said, “I’ll throw it out there. I’ll make a motion to approve the suspension of any further zoning change pending the finalization of the strategic plan or 90 days, whichever is shorter.” Connor Martin seconded. Winters and Martin voted yes. With this being her first council meeting, Gail Swallow abstained. The remaining five councilmembers voted no, causing the motion to fail.

“Alright,” said Parker. “We will continue to consider zoning requests as has been current process.”

Mayor’s Report

Several members of the Alva Recreational Complex board have terms expiring this month. Mayor Parker said he’ll take recommendations and hopes to have people to fill those seats by the next city council meeting. Those whose terms expire are Jaci Heaton, Shane Hansen and Chad Fisher.

Parker said he met recently with a group of students from NWOSU who were interested in learning about the swimming pool and a possible service project.

The strict guidelines for ARPA funds may be lessening, said Parker, and there are ongoing discussions at the state level on broadband expansion. The advice is to join with other cities and counties on multi-jurisdictional projects. Cities have up to three years to use the ARPA funds, and there are strings attached, but the approved projects are all “things we need,” Parker said. The City of Alva is to receive $800,000 divided into two payments.

The Oklahoma Municipal League (OML) will be holding a regional meeting in Woodward on Dec. 7. Parker said the Council of Mayors will be holding a two-day meeting either Jan. 27-28 or Feb. 17-18. The OML annual convention is set for Sept. 13-15, 2022.

Parker said one of the things discussed at the OML is that cities need to look at their ward lines in relation to the new census data to equalize the population numbers in each ward.

Business Manager’s Report

Brady said the city has a number of open positions in EMS, water-wastewater, sanitation, streets, and part time jobs at the Alva Recreational Complex (ARC). The ARC is getting ready for basketball season and will need people to help including referees. Applications may be picked up at the city office or may be found on the city’s website.

Brady said she wanted to give a shout out to the street department for preparing downtown for two homecomings. Street department employees hung the NWOSU homecoming banners on short notice.

Fire Chief Miller is planning to start fire hydrant testing soon. The tests used to be done during the summer, but due to the higher water demand then, it was decided to move them to the fall.

The city’s audit firm is “still wrapping up loose ends,” Brady said. She had hoped the audit would be finished for the October meeting. Auditor Chris Angel says they will have it ready for the November meeting.

Both Brady and Parker attended the Teeny Tiny Town Convention in Woodward where they connected with other representatives from other small communities in Oklahoma.

Stelling asked about progress on the ARC field house roof. Brady said she had not checked recently but they hoped to have the gym open by the end of last week. Work is stalled on part of the project because the new windows have not come in yet.

Authority Meetings

The Alva Utility Authority met after the city council adjourned. They approved the consent agenda including minutes of the Sept. 20 meeting, claims of $169,971.13 and payroll expenses of $45,845.34.

The Alva Economic Development Authority met and approved the consent agenda including minutes of Sept. 20, claims of 40,176.36 and payroll expenses of $13,122.65.

A video of the meeting may be seen at http://www.AlvaReviewCourier.com.

 

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