Mallory Herrmann

After a long and occasionally contentious meeting, the city’s planning commission voted to continue consideration of the Artisan Point apartment complex to their Dec. 13 meeting. The commission heard presentations from city staff and from the developer, Tulsa-based Case & Associates Properties, Inc, before opening a public hearing that drew a crowd.

Commission Chair Jason Norbury referenced the strong public response the project has generated, particularly on social media, and asked all who spoke to remain both civil and kind. The meeting, held in council chambers, was nearly full – primarily with residents in opposition to the complex.

Twenty residents spoke during the hearing. Mayor Bill Baird opened the comments by saying that he was there not in favor or in opposition of the project, but thanked the commission and all involved, including a full house of citizens, for showing up and staying engaged in their community.

“This is exactly how a healthy citizenry, an engaged citizenry, should do things,” Baird said.

The remaining commenters all voiced their opposition to the development, citing its close proximity to Highland Park Elementary and single-family residences, its large size for the area, complaints and poor reviews of the developer, and the lack of designation for the property in the city’s comprehensive plan. The plan, which is a long-term planning tool to establish general guidelines for land development and use, was last updated in 2005 (though amendments have been since made) and inexplicably does not include a designation for this particular parcel of land.

Many residents said that they were aware that the undeveloped land would be developed eventually but felt that a large complex like Artisan Point was an inappropriate use. The land is currently zoned as agricultural; any development will require a rezoning application.

Bill Haley, a resident who has been involved in community meetings ahead of the planning commission’s session, told the commission that the homeowners present are “far more invested in the city than an out-of-town developer.” He said that he had nothing against Case or against development on that property, but that a massive complex like the one proposed would represent just two percent of Case’s portfolio. After the meeting, Haley said that he just wants the planning people to do their job: to create a plan with input from the folks that live here.
“It’s not a plan, it’s a reaction,” Haley said.

The commission ultimately agreed that a plan was needed before proceeding with consideration of the application itself.

“It’s kind of hard for us to make decisions without a road map,” Commissioner Dana Arth said.

The Artisan Point development would be a two-phase 584-unit complex with a mix of two- and three-story buildings. Located on about 36 acres near SE Blackwell Road and Blue Parkway, its units would be a near-even mix of one- and two-bedroom units. The developer described the complex as a luxury community, with a full fitness center, beach-entry pool and cabanas, and outdoor grill and picnic areas. The units would have oversized floor plans furnished with stainless steel appliances. Apartments would be market rate, with rents expected to range between $950 and $1,400 (with added fees for units with fireplaces, remote-controlled parking or other additional amenities).

The commission voted unanimously to revisit the application at their first meeting in December. The decision gives staff an opportunity to designate a use in the comprehensive plan, a process that includes its own public notice and hearing. Commissioner Herman Watson was absent from the Oct. 25 meeting.