Edmond voters to decide zoning question in April 4 election
EDMOND — Voters in Edmond will go to the polls April 4 to decide the fate of a city council decision to rezone property just north of 15th Street and Bryant Avenue allowing for upscale shopping and up to 325 residential units.
The citywide election is a result of referendum petitions circulated by opponents of construction of the Shops at Spring Creek lifestyle center, including housing located on a multistory building with underground parking.
The proposal features about 50 new retailers, a boutique theater and a specialty grocery store.
Developer Poag Shopping Centers of Memphis, Tennessee, has a contract to buy Spring Creek Plaza and wants to acquire the 26 acres to the north as well to create a lifestyle center.
City council members on Nov. 14 amended the land use plan and rezoned the property at the request of the developer.
Registered voters living in the city limits will vote on two propositions.
If "no" votes prevail on the ballot, the council's action will be rescinded, disallowing the plan amendment and rezoning.
If a majority of "yes" votes are cast, the council's action approving the plan amendment and rezoning will stand and plans for the development can proceed.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 4.
Opponents, led by Dan O'Neil, a former Edmond mayor, and Lydia Lee, a former planning commissioner and attorney, collected more than 810 verified signatures to call for the election. Only 691 signatures were needed to get the vote before the people.
They object to the project because of the number of proposed apartments, the additional traffic and the effects on nearby E.C. Hafer Park.
"There is going to be three stories of apartments on top of shopping," O'Neil said. "I am not sure that helps the shopping experience.
"My biggest concern is there is a lot of talk about the retail component. They are not talking about the apartments."
He said an earlier project on this property was to be 138,000 square feet, but the proposed center is 240,000 square feet.
"You add the apartments on top and it is huge," Lee said. "No one is talking about the four stories or the fact that it's going to be towering over the park.
"That seems to be troubling people."
Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce, through a vote of the board of directors, have formally endorsed the project and encourage people to show their support by voting yes on both issues.
"This project would create approximately 800 new jobs," said Sherry Jordan, chamber president and CEO. "With an estimated investment of $150 million, it would give a tremendous boost to Edmond Public Schools through a significant increase in the ad valorem tax base.
"This project would provide an opportunity for increased sales tax revenue for the city through its regional draw of shoppers and diners."
The Edmond Economic Development Authority board of trustees, during a Nov. 7 special meeting, unanimously endorsed the project.
"This is a creative mixed-use development that will enhance our community, drawing people in for an experience for years to come," said Gary Bridwell, chairman of the authority board of trustees. "We believe this project is a good fit for a city where citizens expect quality development."
The developer has asked city officials for a public financial incentive to come to Edmond.
There has been talk of creating a tax increment financing district, known as a TIF district, where property tax or sales tax revenue is set aside to pay off costs of infrastructure or other public improvements. Those upgrades are usually done to accommodate and attract new business or help others expand.
This would be the first TIF district to be created in Edmond.
Assistant City Manager Steve Commons said staff has been providing the city council members information on how to create a TIF district.
City officials don't plan to proceed with further TIF district discussions until after the election.
"There would be cost for the city and cost for the developer," Commons said. "So, we are going to wait until this is resolved."
The developer has said if there is no public financial assistance, he won't be coming to Edmond, Commons said.
"We want to make it very clear, a sales tax TIF, not an ad valorem tax TIF, would be on the table," Commons said.
The property in question has been the most contested piece of land recently in Edmond.
The Bridges of Spring Creek, a project proposed 10 years ago on the same 25 acres, was met with strong opposition by neighboring homeowners, and a special election over rezoning the property was called in November 2006.
Council members also were forced to call that election after opponents successfully circulated referendum petitions. Voters upheld the city council's June 2006 decision to rezone the property adjacent to Hafer Park as commercial to make way for the first proposed upscale shopping center.
Land was cleared and some work on the infrastructure was started, but no buildings were constructed.
Site plans and plats were approved with a detailed list of requirements for the development.
Even earlier, more than 25 years ago, a group of residents was instrumental in stopping the construction of a big-box grocery store at 15th and Bryant. That campaign paved the way for the construction of Spring Creek Plaza, an upscale shopping center.
"The corner of 15th and Bryant, and this property specifically, has had quite a history of controversy," Jordan said. "It's time for that to come to an end.
"The Shops at Spring Creek offers a product that does not exist in the Oklahoma City metro area. It will create a one-of-a-kind, regional, open-air lifestyle center."