MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

April 21, 2013

Details of renewal plan ease concerns

Resident: Feel as if they are looking at all the sides

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Urban Renewal Authority commissioners assuaged the concerns of a resident who has lived most of his 56 years within an area targeted for redevelopment and rehabilitation.

Donald Green, who lives where he grew up as a child and lived most of his adult life, expressed skepticism earlier about the city’s urban renewal plans. At the time, Green said he and some of his neighbors who live within the sparsely populated area felt they were being kept in the dark.

Green’s attitude began to shift Wednesday as commissioners hammered out the preliminary details of an urban renewal plan. Commissioners’ apparent concern about the impact any plan might have on residents who live within the urban renewal area erased the doubts harbored by Green.

“I feel like they are looking at all the sides,” Green said, noting his initial concerns centered on a lack of knowledge about how commissioners would deal with property owners. “I am satisfied about how the whole scheme of things is taking off.”

Darrell Russell, chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority, said Green’s endorsement is satisfying. Russell, offering some assurance, said he understands the fear that comes from not knowing how the eventual urban renewal plan might affect them.

“Your are always excited when you can do something for betterment of your community, and it’s better when the residents can see what you are doing is a positive thing,” Russell said. “I am really hoping they (property owners) will see this is going to be a positive thing for the community and nothing but good will come out of this.”

City Attorney Roy Tucker said while procedures for the displacement of residents resulting from condemnation and urban renewal development are similar, those affected by the latter are provided more protections. An urban renewal plan must ensure “a feasible method exists for the relocation of families and businesses who will be displaced ... in decent, safe and sanitary accommodations within their means and without undue hardship.”

Although commissioners have yet to address that part of the plan, they did take steps Wednesday to postpone any impact an eventual plan might have on residents within the area. The area designated for urban renewal is bounded by Chicago and 11th streets on the east and west and Shawnee Bypass and Talladega Street on the north and south.

Commissioners were able to do that by proposing three projects within any plan submitted for approval by the Planning Commission and City Council. The first phase project would occur in the least developed parts of the 90-acre tract.

The first and second phase would focus on commercial development within an area bounded by Shawnee Bypass and Miller Street and divided by Fairmont Street. The third project would include light industrial development between Chicago and 11th streets on the east and west and Miller and Talladega streets on the north and south.

City Manager Greg Buckley said the projects could include a mix of commercial, residential and light industrial development. Unless changes are approved, development would have to comply with the city’s comprehensive plan and future land use map. Presently, the area is designated commercial and light industrial.

With the three proposed projects identified, Buckley said city staffers will begin putting together project models and an overall plan. Commissioners will continue their work during their next meeting. Meetings are scheduled regularly at 10 a.m. on the third Wednesday of each month.

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

 

Urban Renewal Authority

This map identifies an area in northwest Muskogee targeted for urban renewal. The points on the map identify existing structures within the zone and provide details about occupancy and condition.