City councilors on Thursday will vote on whether to place a moratorium on development along the Arkansas River until design guidelines for the area are put in place.
The moratorium would cover nearly all of the eastern bank of the Arkansas River within the city limits and two stretches of land along the west side of the river within the city limits.
The proposed ordinance change carries the emergency clause, meaning it can be enacted Thursday without the usual waiting period.
According to the agenda item, the moratorium would pertain to “the issuance of permits that would allow construction on or use of property for certain non-residential uses” covered in the Arkansas River Design Overlay District.
The Arkansas River Infrastructure Task Force has been working on development guidelines, called an overlay district, for the Arkansas River corridor.
The task force has been working for nearly two years to come up with a proposal to provide a steady stream of water in the river. The project is intended to spur commercial and recreational development along the banks of the river.
Councilors Blake Ewing, Phil Lakin and Jeannie Cue are the sponsors of the proposed moratorium.
Ewing said Tuesday that the moratorium, if approved, would likely be in effect until the city’s zoning code update is in place, which is expected to be late this year or early next year. The river guidelines would be the first overlay district added to the updated zoning code, Ewing said.
“It is really just to make sure we attract the kind of development we want to see on the waterfront,” Ewing said.
The design guidelines are expected to address such things as a structure’s orientation in relation to the river, setback requirements and building materials, Ewing said.
Development along the river “should contribute to the overall objective of the planned development there,” Ewing said. “So it (the moratorium) just buys us half a year to finish up the zoning code update.”
Ewing said there was no specific project along the river that prompted councilors to put the moratorium on the agenda.
However, next week the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on a preliminary plat for a development at the corner of Peoria Avenue and Riverside Drive. The preliminary plat was submitted by MRB Land Developers LLC.
The plat shows the boundary lines of proposed developments on the site but provides no specifics as to what types of businesses would be constructed on the property.
Early public discussions between the developer and Planning Commission staff, however, have included the possibility of building a convenience store and a tire store on the site.
The triangular-shaped property at Peoria Avenue and Riverside Drive includes at least five proposed development areas, according to documents provided to Planning Commission staff.
Councilors’ effort to get some control over development standards along the river gained urgency a few months ago when a proposed development at 71st Street and Riverside Drive was up for discussion.
The project, which is widely expected to include an REI store, drew criticism from some councilors who believed the company had not done enough to integrate the project into the River Parks trail system.
The development site was once a part of Helmerich Park but was owned by the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority. The authority has since sold the land to a Texas developer.
To ensure that they have say over the development of the remainder of the 71st Street and Riverside Drive site, councilors have initiated the process of rezoning the property to agriculture.
That way, the property would have to be rezoned to be developed; rezoning requests require City Council approval.
The Arkansas River Infrastructure Task Force plans to bring its proposal to a vote of the people in April.
The latest proposal under consideration calls for building low-water dams in south Tulsa/Jenks and 49th Street and Riverside Drive and overhauling Zink Dam.
Also being considered is the construction of a canal from Zink Dam to northern edge of the lake created by the south Tulsa/Jenks dam. The canal would take the place of the 49th Street dam.