Stillwater News Press

March 7, 2013

Senior housing zoning change a wolf in sheep's clothing, resident says

By Chris Day
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — A proposed senior housing complex on East Virginia Avenue didn’t concern nearby residents. Changing the 5.2 acres from single-family homes to residential two-family or residential multifamily did.

These residents are zoning change leery. Just a few years ago, they fought long and hard against Campus Crest Group to keep a proposed apartment complex for Oklahoma State University students out of 16.2 acres that stretched from 717 E. Hall of Fame Ave. to 1202 E. Virginia Ave.

During a public hearing Monday, a group of residents urged city councilors to keep the acreage zoned single-family residential because changing the zoning to allow apartments or duplexes might open the door to multiple-level apartment buildings or duplexes if Housing Concepts, Inc.’s plans for senior housing at the site fell through.

Housing Concepts, Inc., is seeking a grant to help with the project, said Kelly Harris of Keystone Engineering. Harris was Housing Concepts, Inc.’s representative. The zoning must be changed before the grant application can be submitted.

Glenda Rowe lives in the 1100 block of Hanson Street. She has lived in the Camden Pond addition for approximately 10 years. Rowe spoke against the rezoning, asking councilors to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

“This is going to be a nice, quiet little sheep,” she said. “It’s going to be senior citizen housing, probably, if everything goes straight and if the grant comes through and if the builder is able to get everything done and if it is financially feasible when it all works out. But if there is a glitch in any of the ifs, here it is wide open again — rezoned. That sounds kind of wolfish to me. That sheep don’t baa.”

City councilors unanimously decided to postpone action on the rezoning issue until the May 6 meeting. They also asked the city’s Department of Planning Services and city attorney’s office to expedite plans for a senior housing overlay district.

Development Services Director Paula Dennison and City Attorney John Dorman told councilors the overlay district could be developed by the May 6 meeting.

Tuesday, Development Services staff was researching legal cases and Housing and Urban Development regulations, Dennison said. It is part of the process to define a senior housing overlay district for the city.

Planning and Zoning Commission member Becky Teague asked councilors to support a senior housing overlay district during the public hearing.

“We need a vehicle. We’ve heard of the fog of war. We have a fog of the code,” Teague said. “... We have a senior overlay coming to fruition. How quick? I need your help. I need your help desperately. Is this a unique item here? No. It could have helped on Range Road. It could have protected the people on Husband.”

Stillwater needs a mechanism that fosters senior housing development but causing property zoning to revert to single-family if the project fails, Teague said.

“Straight zoning becomes a Trojan horse here. We all know how that ended,” she said.