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Smiling Hill residents unhappy with changes after Edmond church sells nearby land

EDMOND — Neighbors in Smiling Hill housing addition have been campaigning for a year to protect a grove of trees on land, behind their homes, that they say First Baptist Church members promised them in 1991 would never be developed.

But things are changing. The church on Friday sold the 5.8 acres to Midas Investment LLC for $250,000. The new development plan is for single-
family homes.

Nearby homeowners Hazel and Noland Simpkins and Bette Daniel want the city to close 34th Street, east of Patterson Drive, between the Smiling Hill addition and the just-sold property west of Bryant Avenue and 33rd Street.

A petition with 50 signatures in favor of the street closing was presented to planning commission members this week before they voted on the closure request.

The vote was 4-1 vote against closure, with commission Chairman Barry Moore casting the only yes vote.

The city council will make a final decision Sept. 12.

Bryan Coyer, representing the Smiling Hill homeowners group, requested the street closing in an effort to preserve the integrity, structure and character of the community.

“The security, serenity, beauty and natural ambience that is provided by this rare and threatened urban forest in the midst of a sprawling metropolitan area is becoming harder to find and more difficult to preserve,” he said.

Elaine and Ron Pawley, Smiling Hill homeowners, were two of the neighbors who said they were told things in their backyard would never change.

“We have wanted to close the street for many years, and we were told that was not necessary because they (the church) wanted access,” Elaine Pawley said. “One of the First Baptist Church deacons sat on my couch and said this is what they wanted to do.

“They told me they were going to each house on Patterson and Banner. They promised to maintain the green space.”

Todd McKinnis, attorney for Midas Investments, said he didn't doubt what residents said they have been told over the years.

But he presented minutes from a May 21, 1991, planning commission meeting that showed the applicant, the church, telling the commissioners that they did not want to use 34th Street for access, however, it should remain open in case the southwest nine acres was ever developed into a permitted
single-family use.

McKinnis said 34th Street has been there for 40 years.

“My client has the right to access to his property,” McKinnis said. “This is a true public access.”

Diana Baldwin

Diana Baldwin has been an Oklahoma journalist since 1976. She covered the Oklahoma City bombing and covered the downfall of Oklahoma City police forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist misidentifying evidence. She wrote the original stories about the... Read more ›

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