The latest version of the city’s proposed Arkansas River development regulations retains a prohibition on new fueling stations but allows existing stations to expand up to 50 percent under certain circumstances.
The modification to the proposed policy comes after QuikTrip Corp. asked the city to change an earlier version of the regulations — or to provide an exception — to allow the company to someday upgrade its store at 96th Street and Riverside Drive.
Under the earlier version of the regulations, existing fueling stations would not have been affected. However, once a fueling station was torn down, the business owner would not have been allowed to place fueling pumps on the property and the new structure would have been subject to the restrictions and guidelines of the overlay.
Under the lastest version of the proposed regulations, any business that would become nonconforming under the new regulations — such as the QuikTrip store — could expand up to 50 percent as long as it kept the business operating during the expansion. If the business has to close for the expansion, it would have to apply to the Board of Adjustment for a special exception to the zoning code.
Susan Miller, land development services manager for the Indian Nations Council of Governments, said Monday that the change to the proposed regulations applies to all existing businesses covered in the overlay and that it was not made specifically in response to QuikTrip’s request.
“It wasn’t our intent to be putting these businesses out of business, so we recognize that they may want to continue in business, but we want to make sure it applies full scale to new development,” Miller said. “But we understand that businesses want the ability to continue to operate and possibly expand.”
Miller said other businesses along the river made suggestions regarding the proposed regulations.
“That’s what happens when you start going through this part of the process,” she said.
Meanwhile, city officials Monday scheduled two town hall meetings to discuss the proposed river development regulations.
The first meeting will be held April 18 at the Schusterman Community Center Auditorium, 2021 E. 71st street. The second meeting will be held April 19 at OSU Health Sciences Center Dunlop Auditorium, 1111 W. 17th St. No times were announced.
The proposed regulations will be the subject of public hearings, likely in May, before the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. The City Council will also hold public meetings on the proposal before voting on it.
The river development regulations — known as the River Design Overlay — are not part of the $844.6 million Vision Tulsa sales tax proposal, which includes funding for two low-water dams, but are intended to provide a playbook for future development along the river.
A working group comprised of city councilors, planners, architects, business owners, representatives of the Mayor’s Office and others has been working since early last year to create development guidelines for the 11-mile Arkansas River corridor that runs through the city.
The north boundary of the overlay is at approximately Route 66 and the Arkansas River. The south boundary of the overlay is at approximately 131st Street and the Arkansas River.
Tribal land and unincorporated Tulsa County land are not included in the overlay. That means the River Spirit Casino on the east side of the river and the oil refineries on the west side of the river would not be subject to the proposed regulations.
The proposed River Design Overlay divides the river corridor properties into three categories with different uses and design regulations for each.
The property categories include parks, recreation and open space adjacent to the river; privately owned riverfront property; and private property that is not adjacent to the river but has a view of it.
The proposed development regulations do not change a property’s underlying zoning, but they do prohibit some uses the underlying zoning might otherwise allow.
The fuel pumps at the QuikTrip at 96th Street and Riverside Drive are one example of that.
The property is zoned commercial, which allows for fueling stations, but if the business were closed and the property sold, the new owner would not be allowed to have fueling stations on the property.
The same restrictions would apply to Southlawn Mobile Villa Park, 8636 S. Lewis Ave. The 19-acre site is zoned residential/mobile, but mobile homes are not allowed anywhere within the river corridor overlay.
The owners of Mid-Continent Concrete on the west side of the Arkansas River face a similar scenario. The property is zoned industrial, and industrial uses are not allowed within the overlay district.
So the concrete plant can stick around as a nonconforming use, but the owner of the business cannot remove the plant and use the property for a concrete plant or some other kind of industrial use.
The intersection of Peoria Avenue and Riverside Drive is the site of a proposed development that was once was expected to include a convenience store and tire shop.
The Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission last year approved a preliminary plat presented by MRB Land Developers LLC for most of the triangle-shaped property at the corner of Peoria Avenue and Riverside Drive.
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.
Under the proposed development regulations, neither a tire shop nor a gas station would be allowed on the property.
A moratorium approved by the City Council and Mayor Dewey Bartlett limit that property — and all others within the overlay — to the uses proposed in the overlay district. The moratorium expires at the end of July.
Miller said property owners within the overlay district would look to the city’s zoning code and the overlay regulations to determine what uses would be allowed.
As currently configured, the river design overlay does not provide an appeal process for landowners who would like to build something that is prohibited by the regulations. However, property owners can appeal to the Board of Adjustment for variances to the design regulations.
Generally speaking, the development regulations address a project’s placement in relation to the river, design, landscaping, parking, lighting and access to the river.
For example, as currently written, the development regulations would require that structures be no more than 25 feet from the River Parks trail and that the front of the structure face the trail.
“They (city officials) want to protect the city’s investment if the Vision vote is passed by making sure that any new development is quality, respects the river, is oriented toward the river and uses the river as an amenity,” Miller said. “It should look different from any other area in Tulsa that you go to.
“That is what everybody didn’t want — that it looks just like you’re driving down Memorial (Drive) or 71st Street.”
The proposed overlay discourages the construction of buildings that include long, continuous stretches of a single material along the exterior and requires buffers between parking areas and the street.
The proposed regulations also address the types of materials that cannot be used to build a structure. Vinyl and aluminum siding are not allowed on the exterior of buildings, for example.
New detached single-family dwellings and duplexes would be allowed only in the third category of properties covered by the overlay — private property that is not adjacent to the river but has a view of it — and would not be subject to any of the overlay’s design guidelines.
Fueling stations are not the only use prohibited in the overlay district. Other uses not allowed include major public protection and utility facilities; sexually oriented businesses; check cashing; pawn shops; bail bonds; day labor hiring centers; blood bank; plasma center; retail building material establishments; automobile parts and accessories store; gasoline service station; trades and services; mini storage; automotive and allied activities; drive-in restaurants; outdoor advertising; warehousing and wholesaling; mining and mineral processing; light manufacturing and industry; moderate manufacturing and industry; heavy manufacturing and industry; junk and salvage yards.
QuikTrip officials, meanwhile, say they do not want to get mired in another long battle like the one they went through in 2012 when the company proposed a similar renovation of its store at 11th Street and Utica Avenue.
In that instance, Planned Unit Development regulations for the property prevented QuikTrip from building a typical Generation 3 store — one where the building is set back off the street and has plenty of parking in front of the store.
The City Council eventually approved a major amendment to the PUD to allow QuikTrip to build a larger store.
Under the proposed River Design Overlay, PUDs with submitted site plans — such as the proposed REI development at 71st Street and Riverside Drive — would not be subject to the overlay’s regulations. The regulations would be triggered when the PUD is substantially changed through a minor or major amendment.
The QuikTrip store at 96th Street and Riverside Drive is about 4,500 square feet, said QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh, while most Generation 3 stores are about 5,800 square feet. That is about a 23 percent increase in size over the 96th Street and Riverside Drive store.
Thornbrugh said the company was simply trying to be a good corporate citizen when it notified the city of its plans for the 96th Street and Riverside Drive store and requested relief.
“We’re just trying to bring to the attention of everybody that at some point we’re going to be renovating the store at 96th Street,” Thornbrugh said. “We are just trying to avoid a similar situation than we had at 11th Street and Utica (Avenue).”
Thornbrugh said he has not seen seen the latest version of the proposed River Design Overlay.
If the gas station regulations have indeed been changed, Thornbrugh said, “not only us — but any other business there — would be very grateful.”