This was taken from the November 17, 2006 edition of The Journal Record
Reprinted with permission from The Journal Record
Fighting tides of development:
Lake Hefner users hope to sink 10-story condo proposed for city land
by Brian Brus
The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY – A moratorium has been placed on further private development on city-owned Lake Hefner property, Oklahoma City officials said, though that hasn’t stopped the submission of a proposal for condominiums.

“I think we’re going to be very, very hesitant about doing a development on Lake Hefner because we remember the public’s reaction to the last time we were out there,” City Manager Jim Couch said, responding to questions about a 10- or 11-story Lighthouse Development condominium plan. “I’m not saying it’s something we couldn’t have at some point; forever is a long time.”

Almost three years ago the Oklahoma City Council approved the plans of Randy Hogan and the Hal Smith Restaurant Group to build a restaurant near other dining businesses already at East Wharf, on the west side of Lake Hefner Parkway near the Britton Road exit. To accommodate the project and increased automobile traffic, the walking trail had to be moved.

That development elicited a public outcry from several individuals and groups, including the Oklahoma City Running Club and Oklahoma Bicycle Society, over aesthetic and safety concerns.

The most recent proposal involves city park property on the east side of the parkway on Britton Road. Tom Parrish and Dick Horton jointly approached the Water Utilities Trust in August and September to lobby for putting condominiums on trust land currently leased to the Putnam City Athletics Association for softball fields.

Parrish/Horton Interests proposed “an upscale retail/condominium complex” on the 14-acre tract, with a preliminary cost estimate of $45 million, public records show. The project would include 100 condo units and about 50,000 square feet of retail space. The submission included a supporting letter of serious interest to secure the land signed by Thomas L. Travis, chief executive of International Bancshares Corp., in which Travis also offered to make a donation to relocate the PCAA fields. Parish and Horton said the diamonds would be moved to the nearby model airplane park on the south end of the lake.

Parrish was involved earlier this year in the $9 million sale of Lincoln Plaza Office Park and the $2 million sale of the Plaza Inn Hotel, both near the state Capitol. Horton is the founder of Horton Insurance Agency.

Horton said the Lighthouse plans are not definite and he is talking with all the parties that would be affected by the development.

He said the drawing submitted to the city is a rough sketch of what could be constructed on the spot.

“That was conceptual to show them what could be done,” he said. “Our intent will be to create something everybody’s proud of.”

Horton said the development process will also involve looking into air flow patterns on the lake and the movement and upgrade of the baseball diamonds.

After the proposal, trustees directed staff to begin investigating the possible lease or sale of the land. Water and Wastewater Utilities Director Marsha Slaughter said she recommended that the issue not be decided until after the trust and city planning department had finished the lake’s master plan, which is expected by mid-2007. If the plan isn’t finished by then, she said, the trust still shouldn’t move forward until at least 12 months before the PCAA lease expires in 2008. So a recommendation to the trust will be made by November 2007 at the latest.

Boating enthusiast Rowell Johnston spoke out against the condominium proposal at the trust meeting, as he did two years earlier against further restaurant development. Others have expressed similar concerns of the effect a 10-story building would have on wind flow over the lake for sailing and windsurfing.

John Robison, a member of the boat owners association, said he was reluctant to share personal opinions about lake property until the city’s overall plan for the lake is set. He wants as many groups involved in the process as possible.

“I think the lake is more economically valuable to the city left as a feature,” recreationally and aesthetically, Robison said. “It’s a regional park and we’re already a little bit light on regional parks. We even have a deficit on city park land.

“So it’s not so much as a boater but as a member of the community that I view it as a development asset, not to be further developed itself, but as a feature to bring more people to Oklahoma City and make them want to live here,” he said.

Patrick Ryan, who sits on the trust as a city council representative, said, “Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, the users of Lake Hefner are very passionate about their lake. The bicyclers and the joggers and fishermen and sailors – they hate each other sometimes, but they all love the lake. … And I think that will protect the lake in the long haul.

“I think perhaps the developer was surprised at the intensity of the reaction, and maybe is thinking there may be a better way to do this,” he said.

Ryan said he also does not think specific developments should be considered until after the master plan for the lake is complete.

Couch said, “I think there is nice development along Lake Hefner. Some people obviously believe we’ve gone too far. And I think we’ll be somewhat slow in doing further development out there.”

(c) 2006 Journal Record - Oklahoma City. All rights Reserved.
Source: Journal Record - Oklahoma City

To voice your concerns or for more information contact:

Office of the City Manager
James D. Couch, City Manager
200 N Walker, 3rd Floor
Oklahoma City, OK 73102
(405) 297-2345
Fax (405) 297-2570

Oklahoma City Planning Dept.
John Dugan, Director
420 W. Main, 9th Floor
Oklahoma City, OK 73102
(405) 297-2576
Fax (405) 297-1631

Lanc Gross, AICP Planner III
420 W. Main Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73102
(405) 297-3908
Fax (405) 297-1631

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