Commissioners table action on Rose Stone Inn permit; approve two zoning changes
Ponca City Now - October 14, 2019 9:42 pm
By Beverly Bryant/News Director
Ponca City’s Board of Commissioners, with two of the five members absent Monday night, approved two zoning change requests but tabled the third, most controversial, request.
Mayor Homer Nicholson and Commissioners Paul Taylor and Lanita Chapman approved rezoning a business node in the 700 block of North 14th Street to C-2 General Commercial. Several of the businesses in 713-733 North 14th Street have been operating for years in a legal non-conforming zoning status.
The business node started developing in the early 1950s, with the Pioneer Woman Inn opening in 1952, and two buildings at the front of the property opening in 1954 before zoning ordinances were adopted. Most recently those two buildings have been used for a used car lot and a loan company.
The property owner was seeking the C-2 General Commercial zoning in order to expand his mini-storage business at the back of the property. While considering the application, city staff took the opportunity to bring the entire node up to the proper zoning for the businesses in operation in the neighborhood.
These included adding El Patio, a restaurant that serves alcoholic beverages; the motel; and a discount store. Today’s zoning ordinances would require each to be zoned C-2, but they were grandfathered in. Commissioners had been pressing for the Development Services Department to bring larger areas into compliance with current standards when individual businesses ask for a zoning change.
A second request also was easily approved. First Presbyterian Church had been seeking a zoning change in its effort to sell the property. Representatives of the church had told the Planning Commission two weeks ago that a buyer was pending, if the property was rezoned C-1 Local Commercial. The property has long been zoned as R-1 Single Family Residential.
The prospective buyer has said his desire is to use part of the church building for medical offices, allowing the church to continue meeting there and not changing the exterior appearance of the property.
The third rezoning request ultimately was tabled because of the absence of Commissioners Ryan Austin and Shasta Scott.
This request was for a Special Use Permit in the Central Business District to permit a residential care facility at 120 South Third Street, known as The Rose Stone Inn.
Development Services Director Chris Henderson said the request was for uses more intensive than those permitted by right. He referred to City Code and the 2009 Master Plan for Ponca City’s development.
If approved, a Special Use Permit would be valid for one year to allow a property owner time to develop the property for the stated purpose.
During the last Planning Commission meeting two weeks ago, several business owners in the area of the property spoke out against the new owner’s plans for the property. Among their complaints were the developing nature of other properties along Central Avenue, which are bringing more people to the downtown area.
Henderson also cited portions of the 2009 Master Plan and the goals for Ponca City to bring mature residents downtown; economic development that would act as a catalyst for residential use; creation of a rich mix of uses in the downtown redevelopment, and a phased market real estate strategy for downtown revitalization.
Dr. Vishal Aggarwal, a geriatrician from Tulsa, purchased the Rose Stone Inn at 120 South Third Street in February, with the intention of converting it into a residential care facility for ambulatory patients. They would need limited assistance with daily living tasks, he said.
At Monday night’s commission meeting, several of Dr. Aggarwal’s colleagues spoke in favor of the planned project.
Commissioner Taylor stated there were two sides to the issue, and granting the Special Use Permit would trigger investment to bring the property into compliance, which would lead to an occupational permit.
There was discussion about a business plan for the project and code provisions for any property housing more than 16 people. Dr. Aggarwal has said he hopes to have as many as 40 residents in the 25-room property.
Dr. Aggarwal said the board for the project has $100,000 available to invest as a start, with additional funds being added over time. He emphasized again that he needs approval of the Special Use Permit in order to make an application for the project to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
In the end, after hearing from Dr. Aggarwal’s colleagues in several fields and from local business owners who oppose the plan, a procedural issue kept commissioners from voting.
A Commission vote on a Special Use Permit requires a vote of four commissioners in favor for the permit to be allowed, if a written protest has been submitted.
Since only three commissioners were present Monday night, Henderson and City Attorney Mike Vanderburg referred to the Municipal Code, 11-17-5, subparagraph F.
In summary, if there is a written protest filed three or more days before a public hearing on the Special Use Permit request, and if more than 20 percent of property owners or more of the area of lots included in the proposed change, or if more than 50 percent of the owners of property within 300 feet of the subject property protest, the City Commission must have at least four of five members voting in favor of the permit for it to pass.
In this case, Henderson said, a written protest showed 53.24 percent of the property owners within 300 feet opposed the permit.
Commissioners voted to table further action on the request until all five members of the board are present.