KGOU

City Council And Planning Commission Hope planokc Will Cut Back Urban Sprawl

Oct 17, 2014

On Tuesday the City Council of Oklahoma City met for a “rare joint workshop” meeting with the Oklahoma City Planning Commission.

They were looking over planokc - sort-of a guideline for growth over the 621 square mile community that’s one of the largest in the country based on geographic boundaries.

The Journal Record’s Brian Brus reports the underlying goal is to create a more sustainable and healthy environment for Oklahoma City residents:

Officials referred to the presentation Tuesday as a preliminary draft, although Planning Department Director Aubrey Hammontree said significant shifts are not expected as it is reviewed by residents and other stakeholders. Councilman David Greenwell urged early adoption by January; Hammontree said February or March is more likely, given the plan’s wide effects.

At the heart of the revision process, which has been underway for at least three years, lies a battle against urban sprawl. The farther away that homes and businesses are developed from the core, the more expensive it is to provide utilities, emergency services and infrastructure. According to projections, if the city is left to follow current trends, the majority of land would be developed as sparsely populated, with a lot of space between homes to drive up taxpayer costs.

During the meeting, Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett said he’s not a fan of dense building on the city’s perimeter. 

Credit planOKC

He said large apartment complexes far away from the city’s core creates more work for public safety and infrastructure workers, even with strong demand.

"We cannot fall into the trap of being so development-friendly, so anxious for capital and investment, that we just figure out a way to say, ‘Yes.’ I would prefer our answer not be, ‘No.’ But it needs to be, ‘Yes, if.’," Cornett said.

City Council members Pete White and Pat Ryan said that sprawl is a symptom of another factor that deserves more attention – education.

“The impact of higher-density housing is based less on planning and more on public schools and poverty,” White said. “The people you see moving back into the central part of Oklahoma are people without children, or if they have children then they can afford to enroll them in private schools.

“You can’t tell me that people, when they tell us they want better public transportation, that’s why they’re moving to Deer Creek,” he said. “They’re moving out there because of the kids and schools.”

Ryan said his takeaway from planning meetings is that the greatest factor in residents’ home choices is the quality of education.

“We can come up with all the plans we want too, telling people where they should live,” he said. “But until we have schools and education that’s as good as elsewhere, we’re dead in the water.”

“We don’t have problems with sprawl,” Ryan said. “We have problems with educational facilities.”

The city is projected to grow from a population of about 465,000 in 2000 to 744,000 by 2030. At the same time, the largest age group of residents will shift from those who are 35  to 44 years old to the 20-29 age range.

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