• What happens now at Classen Circle?

    As we were first to report on Wednesday, plans have been filed with the city to rezone part of the triangle of properties containing the HiLo Club, Drunken Fry and the Classen Grill.

    The application seeks to reclassify three residential lots directly east of HiLo (shaded in yellow below) as a Planned Unit Development (PUD), a common approach which creates special zoning that permits a specific variety of uses and building types.

    The parcels outlined in red are owned by Red Oak LLC which is seeking to sell to Braum's Ice Cream and Dairy Stores; the blue indicates a property already owned by Braum's.




    The rezoning application filed with the city's Planning Department was made by Braum's and authorized by the owner of all but the one Braum's property, Red Oak. This usually indicates a pending sale, a fact we confirmed with the Braum's real estate department on Wednesday.

    Also included in the Braum's application was a conceptual site plan (see bottom of this story) that show all existing buildings, including the unique and historic Donnay Building, removed in favor of a new Braum's location with a drive-thru.

    The backlash in social media has been overwhelming, with thousands expressing outrage, including a protest yesterday at the site:



    There is also an on-line petition to save the buildings which garnered over 10,000 signatures in 24 hours:

    https://www.change.org/p/okie-mod-sq...-oklahoma-city


    Understanding the Process

    For those concerned about possible demolition, it is important to note that this area does not fall within any of Oklahoma City's design or historic preservation districts, which means a property owner can demolish any structure at any time.

    OKCTalk confirmed with the city's Planning Department that the only requirement is filling out a form and paying a small fee; there is no review or approval required. The process is no more arduous than obtaining a garage sale permit.

    In other words, the current owner Red Oak LLC could demolish that entire block tomorrow without public notice.

    In fact, this is true of every single property in OKC outside these handful of special districts near the city's center. In those districts, approval must be sought through special committee before advancing with any demolition or changes to the exterior, but the Classen Circle area has no such protection.

    Follow this link for more about OKC's special zoning districts.


    Planning Commission

    The matter to be decided for Classen Circle is only that of rezoning the three residential lots, as the balance of the subject property already has the necessary commercial overlay.

    In the graphic below, R-1 is residential, O-1 and O-2 are office and C-3 and C-4 are commercial:



    The Braum's application is scheduled to come before the Planning Commission on August 24th at 1:30 at 200 N. Walker. A Facebook group has been established to encourage concerned parties to attend that meeting.

    OKCTalk spoke at length to the Chair of the Planning Commission, Janis Powers.

    Powers said that the commission always encourages an applicant to meet with nearby homeowners in advance of a formal vote. Applicants are also required to provide legal notice to residents within a certain distance of any rezoning application but are not required to hold meetings, although it is strongly encouraged.

    The goal of encouraging such interaction is to facilitate communication and identify possible compromises before the application is formally considered by the Planning Commission. Powers emphasized the important role the public plays in this process.

    The applicant also has the option of asking for a continuance in order to work with concerned parties. It is not uncommon for the commission itself to recommend a continuance where areas of conflict have not been resolved.

    When the formal meeting agenda is posted a few days before the meeting, city staff from the Planning Department will provide an analysis and recommendation on each application, based on congruence with PlanOKC the over-arching long-term planning document recently completed and through applying their expertise in planning principles. All recommendations of city staff are non-binding.

    In the Planning Commission meeting, the applicant, often represented by an attorney, typically addresses the group and describes their intentions and takes questions from the commission members. Members of the public are also allowed to speak for up to 3 minutes each.

    Interested businesses, neighbors and other concerned parties sometimes seek an attorney to speak on their behalf at these meetings as well, and in turn a continuance can be requested in order to research the issues and prepare.

    Once discussion has concluded the commission may ask the applicant for further information and/or meetings with the public, which often results in a continuance to a future Planning Commission meeting.

    The commission may also call for a formal vote on the application, which would result in their recommendation to City Council that the matter be either approved on not approved. At this point, the application would be added to a future City Council meeting agenda approximately two weeks later.


    City Council

    Recommendations of the Planning Commission are non-binding and there have been situations where the council has voted against a recommendation, just as the Planning Commission itself may ultimately agree or disagree with the recommendation of the city's Planning Department.

    City Council will ultimately vote on the application in one of their regularly scheduled meetings, with the applicant and public again allowed to speak.

    It is important to note that while the Braum's request for is only to rezone the 3 residential lots, both the Planning Commission and City Council may take into account their larger plan for the property, which seems to be clearly indicated in the site plan below showing demolitions and new construction.

    If Braum's was to receive approval to rezone the residential lots, from that point they could implement their conceptual plan unimpeded, unless a private party chose to challenge the rezoning decision in district court.


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