Beautiful Restoration faces challenge
Nearby neighbors are challenging part of a Christian ministry's plan to offer tangible help and hope to women.
Beautiful Restoration purchased property near the corner of NW 192/Danforth Road and Western Avenue in 2019 with dreams of using the land to help others.
However, the ministry's efforts to rezone the property for a tiny home community have been met with resistance from nearby residents.
A petition opposing the rezoning has been started on Change.org, and about 360 people have signed so far. Attempts to contact the individual who started the petition were unsuccessful and a resident representing a group called Safe Neighborhood OKC declined to comment.
An engineer representing Beautiful Restoration and an attorney representing the ministry's nearby neighbors said they are trying to work out a compromise on the matter before the Oklahoma City Planning Commission considers the rezoning request on Thursday. The request has been deferred several times and the planning commission last discussed the issue in December 2019.
A large group of residents from neighborhoods around the Beautiful Restoration property showed up at the Dec. 12 planning commission meeting. Many of them expressed concern about the type of people who would be housed on the ministry's property.
Kaylene Balzer, one of the co-founders of Beautiful Restoration, said she was surprised that people were upset over the ministry's request.
"They had such a concept of us that was so, so off," she said.
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Balzer founded the ministry with her husband, Bryan, and their friend Lisa Clark about four years ago. After a successful fundraising effort, the ministry purchased the 16-acre Terra Place property for $1.3 million in March 2019. The property includes a house described as "The Mansion on the Hill" at 19000 Terra Place, and a "gatekeeper's house" at 19200 Terra Place.
The group immediately began making plans to develop a multi-use campus on the property. They hoped to develop one of the structures on the property as a wedding/graduation venue to help pay for ministry programs. They also wanted to open a free auto repair shop catering to single moms, plus a free clinic and counseling center designed to offer support for ministry participants. A community garden also was proposed, along with a tiny home community offering living units less than 700 square feet built on a foundation. Balzer said the tiny homes would provide housing for women participating in ministry programs.
"These won't be mobile homes, and they will not be anything garish — they will be brick," Kaylene Balzer said of the tiny homes.
She said once ministry leaders learned of protestors, they held a town hall meeting with nearby neighbors in September. Among other changes, the ministry agreed not to host any outdoor events at The Mansion.
Tim Johnson with the Oklahoma City engineering firm Johnson & Associates said the ministry has radically changed its initial application to remove all of the uses that were abutting the neighborhoods.
"We basically pared down a 17-acred PUD (Planned Unit Development) to a 3 1/2-acre PUD that only covers the gatekeeper's house where they (ministry) are meeting," Johnson said. He said the ministry has also agreed to have only one retail establishment, a coffee shop to be constructed east of the gatekeeper's house.
Johnson said the ministry has responded to the neighbors' concerns by reducing the number of proposed tiny homes from 50 to 25. He said they have been asked to reduce the number even more but the ministry doesn't want to do that.
J. Kelly Work is the attorney representing residents living in several neighborhoods near the ministry's property, including Rush Brook, Stonebriar and The Trails. He said the neighbors he represents are now proposing that the ministry limit the number of tiny homes on the property to 10 initially and ministry leaders may go back to the city to request permission to add more at a later date.
"If all goes well and their program gets implemented, they can come back and make an amendment request. But for now, we would like to see that number limited and then we can go from there," Work said.
Work said he and Johnson have been working with Oklahoma City Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice to try to hammer out a compromise.
Balzer said she and other ministry members live in The Trails housing addition and other ministry participants living in the other surrounding neighborhoods. She said they would not place anything or anyone on the property that would jeopardize anyone's safety.
Balzer said ministry members hope that their request for rezoning is approved and their tiny home complex and other plans become reality.
But she said even if the request is ultimately rejected, the ministry will continue on its mission to help those in need.
"Regardless of whether we get the zoning or not, we just said we're going to do the work," she said.