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February 22, 2014

City of Ada weighs back in on dispute

Ada — A dispute over four parcels of land along Stonecipher Boulevard entered a new chapter last week, when the Ada City Council settled on zoning classifications for the property.

The council voted 5-0 Tuesday to designate part of one tract of land as a neighborhood commercial zone. Another section was designated as a multi-family residential zone to accommodate Carl Albert Indian Hospital, because hospitals are allowed in those areas. The third section was designated as a suburban zone.

The remaining three parcels — including a tract belonging to landowner Nathan Dial — were designated as a suburban zone.

Long-running dispute

The zoning dispute dates back to Feb. 19, 2013, when the parcels along Stonecipher Boulevard were annexed into the city limits. Dial and other landowners have challenged the annexation in court and are waiting on a ruling from District Judge Tom Landrith.

Under city regulations, all annexed property is classified as residential unless the city decides another designation is more appropriate. That classification remains in place for one year following annexation.

During that one-year window, the city asks the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission to recommend potential uses for the property in accordance with the city’s comprehensive plan. After receiving the planning commission’s recommendation, the city hosts a public hearing and establishes a classification for the district.

The city may also host a public hearing before annexation, then establish the zoning classification when the land is annexed.

The planning commission discussed a zoning classification for the land along Stonecipher Boulevard in January but tabled the issue. The board took up the issue again Thursday but delayed making a recommendation until Landrith announces his ruling.

The landowners’ attorney, Jack Cadenhead of Seminole, said Tuesday that the city did not notify area property owners about the proposed zoning classification, except for the item on the council’s agenda. He also said the city could not move forward with zoning until it receives a report from the planning commission.

“I believe the primary issue here tonight is that the council is going to conduct a public hearing and act and permanently zone these properties without receiving a report and recommendation from the planning and zoning commission,” Cadenhead said. “State statute requires it. Your own city ordinances require it.”

City attorney Frank Stout challenged Cadenhead’s assertion that the city had failed to notify area landowners. He said the city published a notice in the Ada News, sent certified letters to the landowners and notified people whose property lies within 300 feet of the district’s boundaries.

“Notice was sufficient,” he said.

Stout also said he believed the council could legally proceed with the zoning issue.

Dial later complained that the landowners were not notified in advance that the council planned to take up the issue.

“To say that we got certified letters — no, we did not,” he said.

Stout said the proposed zoning classifications complied with the city’s long-range plan, which included most of the property in question. He added that the long-range plan was previously approved by the planning commission and the city council.

“Because the city has approved the long-range plan in the past, which studied the use of this property, I think it’s in the best interests of the city to go ahead before receiving the report from planning and zoning,” he said. “Planning and zoning has studied this in the past, made recommendations, voted on it, approved it, which the council has also.”

The city considers the planning commission’s failure to act as a refusal to make a recommendation, Stout said Friday in an email to an Ada News reporter. In that case, he said, the city does not have to wait for the planning commission’s report.

Reach Eric Swanson at adanewsreporter@cableone.net.

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