The future of Edmond zoning is facing a critical moment in its evolution over the next few months. Just as we have seen our City Council make an informed and precedent-setting decision regarding zoning and the Lake Arcadia watershed, their ability to legally block bad zoning decisions is being threatened. Not by some nefarious and greedy developer, but by well intended and dedicated city employees trying to do the right thing.
In September, the City Council voted 0-5 against rezoning part of the historic Mountain View Park neighborhood from L-2 Lake Residential to L-5 Restricted Lake Commercial. In talking to members of the council, it was easy to see that their decision was based on several prevailing issues:
- Concerns over the Lake Arcadia watershed and the lack of sewer service in the area;
- Lack of current need for additional commercial zoning along 2nd Street east of I-35; and
- The historical significance of Mountain View Park. Each of these issues and the conclusion that the council arrived at was easily justified under current city ordinances and Edmond Plan IV. The council members should be recognized for their decision and foresight into how east Edmond should/could develop.
However, the currently proposed changes to the Edmond Plan, now being called Edmond Plan 2018, greatly endangers the council's ability to make easy decisions such as this one. It is important to note that a tremendous amount of work has been accomplished with the proposed Edmond Plan 2018, and that the intent is to guide the future development of the city and reduce the number of plan and zoning changes that have occurred with Edmond Plan IV.
The problem is that this new plan is much too broad in its strategic categories, contains insufficient and sometimes damaging definitions, and creates a "zoning selection process" that will most likely create much more conflict and divisiveness between developers and residents trying to protect their property values. Neighborhood infrastructure is incorrectly defined as it relates to many neighborhoods identified within the accompanying map of these Plan Categories, which could have a negative effect on property values.
In the most recent meeting over this plan with the Planning Commission, city staff presented a slide which stated that infrastructure was not well maintained in the Mid-Century Neighborhood category. Such statements can quickly affect the property values for such well-established and very-well maintained neighborhoods such as Faircloud, Chimney Hills, Walnut Cove, Forest Oaks, Kickingbird Estates, Trails South, and Olde Town. These Additions have consistently increased their property values over the years by the actions of homeowners and HOAs, and statements such as this can drive potential homebuyers away from these neighborhoods.
Perhaps the largest deficiency in the proposed plan is the use of a three tier (green, yellow, red) zoning district concept. Offered as an example of the problems with this process, is the Rural Neighborhood category. The "green" or "Appropriate Zoning Districts" included in this category includes six zoning classifications; all of which appear on the surface to be appropriate under today's standards. The "yellow" or "Possible Zoning Districts" includes 13 zoning classifications that ranges from A- Single Family to F-1-B Special Industrial District.
What this means is that if city staff were to say one of these "yellow" zoning classifications was appropriate and then the Planning Commission approved for recommendation such a use, it becomes difficult for the City Council to vote no on the grounds that the use is not compatible to the area, since the Plan says it is possible. This would become even more problematic if the Edmond Plan 2018 were to be codified as the Edmond Plan IV currently is.
If you are concerned about the future growth of Edmond and the use of property adjacent to, and even in the interior of your neighborhood, you need to have your voice heard. There will be three meetings concerning this plan before the City Council on Nov. 26, Dec. 10 and Jan. 14. Plan on attending these three meetings and contact your city councilor to voice concerns and ask questions. Edmond has a history of community involvement in zoning and planning issues, and this particular issue will be setting the stage for zoning battles for the next 20-30 years. Now is the time to engage. You should not wait until the conflict affects your neighborhood.
Mark Nash is a business consultant and a member of The Edmond Sun Editorial Board.