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City Planning Staff Screwed Up?


Several weeks ago I questioned how designer Larry Pickering had managed to paint a decades-old brick and cast stone building at 1116 N Robinson Ave. without getting permission from the Downtown Design Review Committee.

Early on I received conflicting reports from Pickering and from city staff. City planners initially indicated they gave administrative approval, and then backed up and said they only approved paint for an addition to the rear of the main building.

Pickering all along insisted he had permission to do the paint job, but admitted he had no idea what the color would be until it was done – proof this project had not undergone the usual scrutiny required by the city’s design ordinances.

“I came in with the understanding it was approved,” Pickering said. “I conversed with staff at the time, and we commenced with painting of the building.”

Critics of Pickering’s work noted the building already had a good, historic brick and cast stone façade that could have been cleaned up and brought into a small collection of surviving historic buildings downtown. Pickering insisted the tenant, Nic’s Grill, wanted the building to have the same paint job as the main restaurant at NW 10 and Pennsylvania.

Today we found out city staff, to quote design committee member Chuck Ainsworth, “dropped the ball.” Planner Lisa Chronister said the application conflicted with the building plans, which did show the building would be painted. The planning staff did not catch the paint job in the building plans.

“It seems as if we fumbled the ball here,” Ainworth said. “We need to be more cautious next time.”

Committee chair Betsy Brunstetter also was critical of the review and the outcome.

“I am very unhappy that building was painted,” Brunstetter said. “But I don’t know there is anything we can do about it.”

Pickering won. But it’s likely his applications will undergo extra scrutiny for the foreseeable future.

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Steve Lackmeyer

Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›