Local rezoning plan needs further review
BY World's Editorials Writers
Friday, March 08, 2013
3/08/13 at 7:12 AM
It's one of those ideas that sounds good at first blush: Adopt zoning guidelines that lead to cozier, more pedestrian-oriented development. That could lead to new businesses and residences, more neighborhood cohesiveness, even better health.
But the problem with such a concept is it's easier said than done. That's what the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission in effect communicated on Wednesday with its 9-1 decision to re-examine a proposed form-based zoning expansion.
Commissioners had been contemplating whether to expand form-based zoning within the Pearl District, a redeveloping area east of downtown. Form-based zoning has been applied to a small section of the district and proponents wanted to expand it to most of the district. When that expansion plan met with resistance from business owners, it was scaled back. That scaled-back plan was the subject of Wednesday's meeting.
Form-based zoning, a departure from the city's current land-use practices, focuses on a building's form more than its use. The idea is to cluster buildings together whose forms complement each other, rather than segregate buildings and developments according to their uses. This new approach is supposed to attract denser, more bustling development.
The form-based approach has become more popular in recent years throughout the country, and supporters are eager to establish it in Tulsa.
While the approach has merit, some Tulsa business owners are rightly concerned what it might mean for their operations. They argue that the new code places too many requirements on their businesses - including such elements as where buildings could be placed, how tall they could be, even where doors should be located and what exterior materials can be used. Such requirements, they say, could limit or eliminate expansion possibilities in the future.
After discussion, Commission Chairman Joshua Walker declared the expansion plan to be "unadoptable." All but one other commissioner agreed to put the expansion on hold.
Some supporters feel that those who oppose the zoning plan didn't bother to take part in all the deliberations about zoning issues that have occurred over the past few years. But some of them did participate, only to find that zoning changes proved to be something of a moving target.
As with all land-use decisions, balance is the key. Change is important to a growing city, or else stagnation sets in. But balancing the interests of all affected property owners is just as important.
Original Print Headline: Balancing act