If you thought last year’s brouhaha over moving the Iron Gate soup kitchen and grocery pantry was a mess, listen up.
This time around, it could be worse.
First, let’s recall how the dust settled last year? After months of public jawing between proponents and opponents of the nonprofit’s proposed move from Trinity Episcopal Church, 501 S. Cincinnati Ave., to the Pearl District, it was the city of Tulsa’s Board of Adjustment that settled the debate. Sort of.
The BOA voted 2-2 last October on Iron Gate’s application for a special exception to the zoning code. The special exception was need to build the new soup kitchen and grocery pantry at 302 S. Peoria Ave. It takes three votes in the affirmative for a BOA motion to pass, so Iron Gate’s application was technically rejected.
But at least the BOA rendered a decision.
A year later, with Iron Gate headed back to the board Tuesday with another application for another special exception for another proposed relocation site, it doesn’t look like the BOA will even be able to do that.
Three of the Board of Adjustment’s five members have notified BOA staff that they will have to recuse themselves from the case because of conflicts of interest. They are Carolyn Back, Stuart Van de Wiele and Tom Flanagan.
That means the BOA will not be able to render a decision on Iron Gate’s application. In order for Iron Gate to seek relief in Tulsa County District Court, should the nonprofit choose that option, it must have some kind of ruling from the Board of Adjustment, and that is not going to happen Tuesday.
It turns out the Downtown Coordinating Council has concerns about Iron Gate’s latest proposed site, between Seventh and Eighth streets and south Elgin and Kenosha avenues, and has requested that the case be continued until Dec. 13.
But that date won’t work because Austin Bond, one of the two BOA members who is not recusing himself — David White is the other — won’t be able to attend that meeting. So Tuesday the plan is to try to schedule a special meeting for Nov. 17, at which time the Iron Gate case will be heard.
The special meeting, if approved, would be at the same time and place as Tuesday’s meeting: 1 p.m. in City Council chambers of City Hall, Second Street and Cincinnati Avenue.
There’s more. Typically, BOA members who recuse themselves leave the room while the case is being heard and do not cast votes. In this case, however, three members — a majority of the board — must recuse themselves. If they all leave the room, there would no longer be a quorum and the meeting would be over.
So the plan, according to city planning officials, is to have the three board members who have to recuse themselves be present for the special meeting Nov. 17, but when it comes time to vote, they will have to abstain.
Although only Bond and White will be able to cast votes — and thus no vote in the affirmative or the negative is possible — Iron Gate will have a decision from the BOA in hand to make its case in Tulsa County District Court should it choose to do so.
Susan Miller with the Indian Nations Council of Governments, which provides staff services for the BOA, said it is important for the public to attend the Nov. 17 meeting and give their opinions on the proposal.
“I anticipate that tomorrow the BOA will continue the public hearing for Iron Gate based on voting members present & DCC request,” Miller said. “It is important for interested parties to attend this hearing to ensure their comments are included in the record and considered as this moves through the process.”
Iron Gate officials argued last year that the new, larger facility was needed to accommodate its ever-growing number of clients. The soup kitchen was established in 1978 by parishioners of Trinity Episcopal Church, who stepped out of a Bible study to made a sandwich for someone, according to its website.
It has since become a separate entity from the church and serves more than 200,000 meals a year and tens of thousands of bags of groceries to the poor and homeless.