New plan by Oklahoma City Planning Department looks to make city's sprawl more efficient 

A city on a grand scale needs grand plans. In Oklahoma City's case, it is PlanOKC, a proposal Oklahoma City Planning Department officials are introducing to the community and city leaders beginning this week.

The city encompasses 622 square miles, and planning department officials decided recently it was time to address how to map the city's future growth with optimal efficiency.

"Even though the 1977 plan was updated in 2000, it still lacks terribly to address the issues we have today," said Susan Miller, division manager of the planning department.

Beginning in May, planning department officials want to start fresh by gathering public input for a comprehensive, citywide plan with its foundations in correcting what they say are inefficient growth patterns.

Miller said although the city's population increased 40 percent since the 1970s, the city has spread out a lot more. Since 1977, Oklahoma City's development area has almost doubled.
That spread, she said, isn't good.

"It makes it harder for us to provide services."

Miller said in that same time the city's treated water volume increased 68 percent and lane miles of roads by 275 percent, making the city's current plan outdated and lacking in addressing the issues the city faces today.

Planning department officials have selected nine elements that it anticipates will comprise its recommendations. They will focus on land use, transportation, sustainability, preservation, housing, education, recreation, economic development and public services. The introductory meeting, scheduled for May 6, is the first of several meetings.

Following in the footsteps of Tulsa, which took steps toward a united plan in 2007 by hiring a consulting firm to help research the logistics, Oklahoma City planning officials are looking for input from residents, neighborhood alliances and businesses to formulate recommendations.

Miller said those recommendations will help create policies implemented when considering zoning or redevelopment applications. Some will help decide actions taken by various city departments. Miller said that PlanOKC is not a project, but rather recommendations that may lead to projects.

The legwork for PlanOKC will be done by current staff and will not use paid outside consultants.

Miller said the goal is to have the PlanOKC recommendations completed by 2012. Those recommendations will then go before the Oklahoma City Planning Commission and, if approved, will ultimately head to the City Council.

In the meantime, city departments are already meeting regularly to coordinate efforts for public safety systems, like fire and police, and utilities such as water and sewer, as well as parks and public works, in order to anticipate the city's future needs.

Planning officials in Tulsa, which is in the hearing process of PlaniTulsa, hope that will result in the Tulsa City Council adopting the plan. Mary Coley, spokeswoman for the City of Tulsa, said the Tulsa Metro Area Planning Commission has had a great deal of input from the public, and as a result, the hearings have been extended.

Coley said in addition to neighborhood alliances and the city's chamber of commerce, Tulsa officials have also had input from homebuilder alliances and real estate associations.

Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, said he hopes planners will consider infill areas in looking for planning inefficiencies.

"You already have streets, you already have utilities that are servicing those underdeveloped areas," he said. "It just makes sense that you save all that infrastructure cost by developing them rather than extending them further out."

Georgie Rasco, executive director The Neighborhood Alliance, said the city has done a good job at making Oklahoma City an attraction, but the time has come to focus on residents.

"We have to get together and figure out where the city is going," she said. "It means getting more than just one person or one department's views so that we really do know it's a plan for all."

Following its first meeting, Miller said the planning department hopes to have a presentation circuit on the agendas of various organizations and agencies by this summer, and by the fall to have established all stakeholder groups.

"In city government, every time we start a process, the same group always comes out," Miller said. "That's fine, but we need a broader group. We need new people with different ideas and different perspectives and experiences to hopefully get us to the direction we need to go."

Click here to view a land use map of the current comprehensive plan.

PlanOKC Division Manager Susan Miller stands in front of a map of Oklahoma City. photo/Marianne Pickens

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