Picture the Boomer Road intersection where Boomer intersects with Husband Street. Both Boomer and Husband continue north with Husband serving as the east entry to the Stillwater High School parking lots. Also near this intersection, Tyler runs east/west. Directly next to Tyler is Papa John’s Pizza with the address 925 N. Boomer.
On the west side of Boomer are Red Rock Bakery at 910 N. Boomer, a closed Long John Silver’s at 1004 N. Boomer, Arby’s at 1016 N. Boomer, the Bank NA at 1020 N. Boomer and Stillwater Plaza, a small shopping center at the intersection where Eskridge, Duck and Boomer converge. The west entrance to the SHS student parking is also at the intersection.
That’s not all.
On the east side of Boomer after it intersects with Husband is Whataburger at 1001 N. Boomer, Slim Chickens at 1011 N. Boomer, Freddy’s Steakburgers at 1015 N. Boomer and Don Evans Window Tint at 1201 N. Boomer.
It’s hard to picture all of this area, isn’t it? To say it’s a busy Stillwater area for traffic and restaurants is an understatement.
It’s especially busy at noon after SHS and OSU have started. Many SHS students can be seen walking along Husband south of SHS. Besides all the lunch customers, there’s a lot of traffic going north on Boomer and on Husband.
In the midst of this area, the Slim Chickens owner filed a rezoning request. According to the Planning Commission report, the applicant wants to build two to four duplexes on a 64-acre strip of land at the back of the Slim Chickens property. The strip’s bordered on the north by the SHS parking lot. The owner wants the property rezoned from Commercial General to Two Family and Multi-Family Residential.
The Development Services Director later stated in the July 15 Council meeting the maximum number of duplexes possible is three.
If you drive on Husband past this location, you’ll need to look closely to see this land proposed for the rezoning. It’s adjacent to 29 parking spaces for Slim Chickens. The green space has a commercial trash area, a drainage ditch and a large tree.
The entrance to the back of the property is inside the school zone on Husband.
A former Planning Commission (PC) member who served several years ago told me the City’s planners used to make recommendations and suggestions concerning rezoning applications. Developers were upset about the practice according to the former PC member, so they managed to change the process so city planners could no longer make recommendations/suggestions.
That former process could’ve been useful on this rezoning issue.
For any zoning issue, actually, a few simple questions will resolve most doubts about the correct decision. It’s a common sense assessment.
1. Who benefits from this rezoning?
2. Does this rezoning help the City of Stillwater?
3. Is this rezoning detrimental to the City of Stillwater?
For this rezoning, the questions were easy to answer.
1. The owner of Slim Chickens benefits from this rezoning due to receiving rental income.
2. This rezoning doesn’t help the City of Stillwater. Stillwater is oversupplied with student rental property.
3. Yes, this rezoning is detrimental to the City. It causes more traffic at intersections already having heavy traffic. With three duplexes added, there’s increased traffic, the danger to students walking in the area is increased and the view of SHS is blocked by the duplexes. Three duplexes could add 12 cars if each duplex has two tenants.
Clutter may not be a technical descriptive word used in planning reports, but “clutter” comes to mind when picturing three two-story duplexes between Slim Chickens and Whataburger and the SHS Parking Lot. This rezoning will add clutter to an already congested area, thus making even more congestion.
So what happened in the Planning Commission and the City Council hearings?
On June 18, the Planning Commission voted 4-1 to approve the rezoning. Commissioners Thielman-Braun, Buchert, Jerome and Shanahan voted for the rezoning. Commissioner Brad Rickelman was the “no” vote, although he didn’t state his reason for opposition.
Before the vote, the commissioners didn’t appear to be familiar with the property since the current congested state of the area and its location next to SHS should have brought forth many questions. Commissioners asked no questions.
On July 16, the City Council approved the rezoning 3-0. (Joyce, Darlington, and Zannotti) At least, the Councilors asked several questions concerning traffic, parking, students, residential property on opposite side of Husband and the land size.
Sometimes, a notification error can be useful. After the rezoning approval, the City discovered a notification error for area property owners. The rezoning will be heard again, first a PC hearing on Tuesday and then a CC hearing on Sept. 9.
This gives both the planning commissioners and the mayor and councilors an opportunity to reconsider. This time, they need to ask themselves those assessment questions and then vote against more clutter, congestion and risk to students.
Julie Couch is a longtime Stillwater resident.