PAUL KANE/HOME BUILDER
Q: Why should people care that the zoning code has changed?
A: The zoning code brings a sense of order to how a city grows and evolves. Since the zoning code had not undergone a significant update since the 1970s, Tulsa has been planning for the 21st century future with a zoning code that was adopted when disco was popular. The zoning code was changed to allow the new Comprehensive Plan (known as PlaniTulsa) to be fully implemented. Frankly, a lot of the changes won’t be that exciting to most people (e.g., cleaning up the format and structure of the code so that it is less fractured). But some components, like new zoning classifications that expressly allow for mixed-use zoning and a de-emphasis on parking requirements will interest many.
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: The most important change is the introduction of mixed-use zoning districts. The Comprehensive Plan appeared to envision a Tulsa which embraces density. Much of the renderings in the plan itself were mixed-use-type structures. By “mixed-use”, I mean buildings which have residential apartments or townhomes on upper floors, and retail or other commercial on the ground floor. Under Tulsa’s older zoning code, there was no provision for this. With the new code, mixed-use zoning is provided for with a multitude of options.
Q: What proposed change was not made to the code that you wish had been made?
A: I didn’t have any preconceived notions as to what changes should be made. So I don’t know that anything was left out. I will say I was disappointed with the process a couple of times. One example was that I, as a member of the mayor-appointed Citizen Advisory Team was told from the outset that this was supposed to be a comprehensive look at the zoning code in an effort to get away from the “piecemeal” approach which the code had become. However, we were told that the Historic Preservation section was not within our purview and it would not be changed. A representative of the Historic Preservation Commission was made a member of the CAT and did not suggest changes. However, AFTER the CAT was dissolved, the HPC came forward with a number of suggested revisions, many of which were objectionable to myself and others.
Q: Do you believe the code changes have made developing a project in Tulsa easier or harder? Why?
A: Probably a little bit of both. Certain elements of the old code which were cumbersome have been cleaned up, which benefits everyone. But the new mixed-use zoning will create challenges until it better understood by developers. Overall, I think the changes made in the revision are positive.
Q: What issue in the proposed zoning code update would you encourage city councilors to examine most closely? Why?
A: I would encourage the City Council to examine the new Mixed-Use District closely. This is a whole new concept to the Tulsa zoning code. Mixed-Use Districts are probably the one portion of the newly proposed code which opens the door to the concepts outlined in the Comprehensive Plan. The Mixed-Use Districts were set up in such an organized fashion that they allow for a clear, yet flexible framework for the type of walkable, sustainable development which PlaniTulsa envisioned. The reason the council should examine this section closely is because it IS so different. It was set up in an almost modular format. It allows for adjustments on how dense the development could be in the proposed district, how tall the buildings can be, and so forth. As the governing body that will be approving these new, innovative districts, it is their responsibility to truly understand them.
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: I would ensure that the new overlay tool mentioned in the previous answer didn’t apply to downtown. The zoning is broad enough there that such a tool is unnecessary.