Progress trumped passion at the Tahlequah City Council meeting Monday night, Jan. 6, as homeowners' voices were raised but ultimately overruled, with two councilors and the mayor citing revitalization as a reason to rezone properties for duplexes and single-family dwellings.
Mayor Sue Catron broke a tie vote for changing the zoning on Circle Street, with Ward 1 Councilor Bree Long and Ward 2 Councilor Steven Highers voted for the rezoning, while Ward 3 Councilor Dower Combs and Ward 4 Councilor Trae Ratliff voted against it.
During a 2-1/2-hour meeting, citizens spoke passionately about investing in their homes, neighborhoods, and the historic significance of the area for more than an hour, asking that property owner David Dick consider building single-family homes rather than duplexes.
A signed petition was provided to the council, expressing a union of disapproval by neighbors, and David Nagle led comments from the audience asking for "nice single-family homes" that would enhance the historic neighborhood.
Scott Lawrence said the multi-family homes in the area have been nothing but trouble caused by absentee landlords and drug traffic. Jane Bond asked the council to consider that duplexes would bring more traffic, and single-family homes already have three and four college students living in them. Shelly Bailey agreed with Bond in her concern for her own grandchildren and cars speeding through the neighborhood.
"It's losing the character and is at risk of destroying the historic area," said Bailey.
Mindy Hendrix said she hoped the city would protect the green areas, specifically the creek that runs through the area, noting she'd already seen a blue heron move her nest to a safer place across the creek.
"Please protect this creek and the trees, so no more are cut down and there isn't pollution," said Hendrix.
Dick said that as a business owner, he wants to invest in Tahlequah, and he would build nice duplexes, which he himself would maintain.
He currently owns five lots in the area.
Before casting her vote, Catron praised attendees for their enthusiasm and interest in revitalization, saying she is thrilled to hear a group of people interested in such issues. She asked for names and numbers so they could meet and work together.
Other properties were approved for rezoning, including the area where Stuteville Ford is located, for a medical marijuana production facility.
Tabled was advertising for a police officer until Police Chief Nate King could be present, as he was among many missing due to influenza.
Also discussed were new trash bins, or polycarts, which would allow for trucks to self-empty, rather than the crews, and would be bagless. It could also raise pickup fees, which haven't been increased since 2012.
Grant writer Shelldon Miggletto was approved to pursue a grant for the Tahlequah Mission Park project. Volunteers have raised $40,000 as part of the in-kind needed for the $240,000 grant.
The next meeting of the Tahlequah City Council will be Monday, Jan. 20, at City Hall.