MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

April 2, 2013

Zoning revamp work continues

Latest proposal would let planners reclassify sites in some areas

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— City planners presented a plan Monday that addresses the reclassification of areas throughout the city once city councilors adopt new zoning codes.

The proposal would authorize city planners to reclassify certain commercial areas as either local or regional commercial zones depending upon location. Other areas throughout town would be reclassified in relation to their present use and changes to the comprehensive plan and land use map adopted in 2012.

Planning Director Gary Garvin said the proposal presented Monday during the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting provides extraordinary options for property owners who decide to appeal the administrative reclassifications or apply for rezoning.

“None of this is etched in stone,” Garvin said. “Basically, a property owner would have more time ... to appeal to the Board of Adjustment, request rezoning or continue a nonconforming use of existing property once it has been reclassified.”

The proposal would reclassify property that borders most of Shawnee Bypass and a portion of U.S. 69 as a regional commercial corridor.

The C-3 classification is reserved for “intense commercial land use ... along ... primary streets” that feature businesses that draw shoppers from a region surrounding Muskogee.

Garvin said property along York Street and Chandler Road and Okmulgee Avenue, Broadway and 32nd Street would be reclassified as local commercial.

Such areas, according to the future land use map, “are intended to provide daily goods and services conveniently to local residential neighborhoods.”

Property owners harmed by the administrative reclassification would get about six months to appeal or apply for rezoning instead of the typical 60 to 90 days, Garvin said.

Property owners affected by reclassification would be able to apply for rezoning at no cost. Leniency also would be granted for nonconforming uses of property resulting from reclassification.

In other business, planning and zoning commissioners plowed through the article that addresses authorized uses within the three commercial districts proposed. Much of the discussion hinged on what uses would be authorized by right or special exceptions in certain commercial districts.

Balancing the uses of commercial property adjacent to residential or other transitional areas seemed to pose the most difficulties.

Outside displays of merchandise or business activities, nightclubs, bars and pool halls proved most problematic.

The initial suggestion for outdoor displays or activities was to limit those only to the high-intensity regional zone.

Commissioners, however, argued to allow those activities within local and general commercial zones by special exception.

The initial recommendation for nightclubs, bars and pool halls was to require owners to apply for special exceptions within all three commercial zones. The recommendation met resistance.

“I would be uncomfortable that this would not be permitted anywhere without a special exception,” said Shawn Raper, the commission’s chairman.

“I would hate to set up a situation where anybody who wants to do this has to jump through all these extra hoops.”

Raper’s concerns were shared by Commissioner Jim Eaton and others, who said that such strict zoning requirements may deter new businesses.

Commissioners tentatively agreed to permit those types of businesses within areas zoned for general and regional commercial districts as long as the establishments meet standards set by the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission.

Commissioners are expected to take up proposed commercial building standards when they meet in about four weeks.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.