A group of citizens has submitted a petition to the City of Stillwater that demands city leaders revisit how the City Council handled a land deal involving the Oklahoma Wondertorium.
The petition drive was organized by former State Representative Cory Williams, who is an attorney and a real estate developer.
The citizen’s demand petition was certified Tuesday by the City Clerk’s office, which verified that 122 of the 134 people who signed it were actually Stillwater residents and registered voters.
In 2017, the City Council removed a reversion clause that had been placed on the deed to a half-block of land it sold in 2009 to the Oklahoma Wondertorium.
Williams and others have said they do not believe the City Council acted properly when it voted to remove the clause, which required the land be used to build a children’s museum. If the land were not used for a children’s museum, the City of Stillwater would have the right to demand the property be returned.
The removal of the reversion clause was approved during a City Council meeting but it was included with other items on a consent docket and was not discussed.
One year later, the Oklahoma Wondertorium sold the land to a limited liability corporation owned by Russ Teubner, a Stillwater businessman and real estate developer. The block across from the Stillwater Community Center where the land in question is located has been the rumored location of a proposed Warren Theater.
Williams has said he is defending the rights of taxpayers who lost valuable interest in the property. He maintains that under the city’s charter, the Council should have passed an ordinance or asked the public to vote on the sale because the city’s interest in the land would have had a value exceeding $250,000. Public comment should have been a part of the Council’s process at the very least, Williams previously said.
City Attorney John Dorman maintains that the clause gave the City the right to demand return of the property but doesn’t require that it do so.
The underlying motivation for helping the children’s museum find a home there was to stimulate economic development in downtown Stillwater. Developing the property as a movie theater, if that were to be the eventual usage, would accomplish the same goal, he said.
The City filed a petition in Payne County District Court in June that asks a judge to determine whether the council acted properly when it removed the reverter.
The judge’s decision should lay the matter to rest, if the court affirms the council’s decision. Otherwise, the City will have to figure out how to remedy the situation, Dorman said.