Michelle Cantrell:Former Planning Commissioner pic 2015-10-19 at 10.35.07 AM

Michelle Cantrell


Q: Why should people care that the zoning code has changed?

A: What and how something can be built in your neighborhood can greatly affect the value of your home, as well as your quality of life. The code sets out the rules for what can be built. It can be the deciding factor in whether you might get a nice coffee shop down the street, a new house on an empty lot, or an auto repair shop next door. Paying attention to the new rules now will lessen surprises later.

Q: What do you believe is the most important proposed change made to the zoning code? Explain why the change is significant and its impact on the community.

A: Zoning codes by nature have to create broad rules that apply citywide. Yet, each part of Tulsa is different and has unique characteristics that cannot be encapsulated in a broad, all-inclusive code. The new code addresses that concern by creating a new type of overlay.

The overlay is designed to address specific, objective characteristics of small neighborhoods. For example, the Lortondale neighborhood may want to preserve the flat-roof styles prevalent in their neighborhood. Or perhaps Swan Lake would like to allow garage apartments. Instead of rewriting the entire zoning code, and perhaps alarming other neighborhoods that don’t want those features, Swan Lake and Lortondale could ask for an overlay to address those issues.

This tool will be beneficial not just for residential neighborhoods, but for the entire city. For example, some areas may want to have certain styles of signage or reduce the amount of parking required. And it would allow certain areas to experiment with new trends and fads. Who would have guessed 10 years ago that food trucks would be so popular? Or shipping container malls? Instead of rewriting the entire zoning code each time a new trend emerges, the overlay provision will allow areas that so choose to adapt quickly to the new trends.

Q: What proposed change was not made to the code that you wish had been made?

A: I wanted to see more consolidation of the commercial districts and additional steps in phasing out Planned Unit Developments. However, I also understand the problems created by eliminating districts when multiple properties have already been zoned. My hope is that new developments utilize the new and, in my opinion, improved zoning categories.

Q: Do you believe the code changes have made developing a project in Tulsa easier or harder? Why?

A: By providing new tools, and creating clearer criteria for developers, the new zoning code will make it easier for developing projects. No longer will developers—and neighborhoods—have to rely on unpredictable and frequently controversial PUDs for unique projects.

Q: What issue in the proposed zoning code update would you encourage city councilors to examine most closely? Why?

A: The new zoning code creates a new type of planned development category that is designed to eventually replace the PUD. In many ways, the Master Planned Development category is an improvement over PUDs. It provides a lot of flexibility for developers, provided they meet certain criteria. However, because the MPD zoning category eliminates several of the restrictions that were in PUDs, this new type of development must be sensitive to the surrounding neighborhoods. After receiving input from the public, the consultant for the zoning code added some good protections for the surrounding built environment. Ultimately, the success of this new zoning category will depend on implementation. City Councilors should look carefully at this provision, and make sure they understand how and when it should be used, and whether there are sufficient protections for surrounding residential neighborhoods.

Q: If you were king or queen for a day and you could change one thing about the new code, what would you change?

A: The zoning code, like all legislation, should never be designed to appease simply one person—even if she were queen. I believe that the version of the zoning code that was presented to the TMAPC does a great job of reflecting the input of the entire city, not just a few select people who have pushed for a certain agenda. And that version is truly consistent with PlaniTulsa, the shared vision for our city. Because I know that the zoning code must be a balance of interests and concerns, I would not make any changes.