The Tulsa Development Authority and city of Tulsa envision putting on hold until the spring of 2020 any policies linked to the use of eminent domain in the amended Greenwood/Unity Heritage Neighborhoods Sector Plan.
At a meeting Thursday, the TDA approved five new members to a Citizens Advisory Team that will assist with the amended plan, which drew opposition from dozens of people at a March City Council meeting. The TDA was accused of failing to adequately communicate the proposal’s details, which allows the urban renewal organization to acquire blighted property — by purchasing it or through eminent domain — for private development and other revitalization efforts.
“We are pushing the pause button certainly on any uses of eminent domain and even the blight study that needs a better understanding of the citizens on how that came about,” City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper said during an interview outside Thursday’s meeting. “That was not done properly.”
TDA and the city are undertaking two major projects that will help guide development and redevelopment moving forward in the sector plan, according to TDA documentation.
One is a downtown area housing study that kicks off Monday. It is designed to analyze current and future demands in key neighborhoods, helping the city determine how to increase affordable housing options and spur the development of high-quality, mixed income communities.
The other project, which begins after July 1, is a master planning effort for the Kirkpatrick Heights and Greenwood neighborhoods. This will provide residents and stakeholders the chance to participate in the planning process for the land immediately west of OSU-Tulsa and along Greenwood Avenue, acreage recently that went back in TDA control.
For both projects, people will have the opportunity to engage in focus groups, online surveys and open houses. Once these efforts have been completed, a process expected to extend to the spring of 2020, the Citizens Advisory Team will be relaunched to consider an amendment to the sector plan that presents appropriate policies related to the use of eminent domain.
Among the five people OK’d for the Citizens Advisory Team on Thursday were urban farmer and activist Nathan Pickard, Andrea Chambers of the Antioch Baptist Church and Julie Miner of the Indian Nations Council of Governments. The other 30 members of CAT were approved at the May TDA meeting.
The Greenwood/Unity Heritage Sector is bordered on the north by Gilcrease Expressway, the south by the Inner Dispersal Loop, the east by U.S. 75 and the west by L.L. Tisdale Expressway.
By statute, TDA has held the authority to acquire blighted properties and exercise eminent domain since 1959, and it has used that power in the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood and other parts of town, including north Tulsa. But when the Greenwood/Unity Heritage Neighborhoods Sector Plan was approved in 2016, it did not include the statutory language required for TDA to exercise its full powers to implement urban renewal programs.