After a 40-minute dialogue about ballot language, the Edmond City Council advanced an ongoing discussion about asking residents to approve a $0.0025 one-year sales tax for expanding or protecting E.C. Hafer Park by purchasing an adjoining 22-acre lot of land that has been proposed for a controversial development.
Councilman Josh Moore made the motion to “direct staff to proceed with language and documents for a meeting in May to decide whether to put this on a ballot with a goal of an Aug. 10 special election date.”
All five councilmembers voted in favor of preparing for the May council vote, which could occur May 10 or May 24. If the council — which will have two new members by then — approves calling an Aug. 10 special election for the sales tax proposal, residents would have about three months to make up their minds.
If voters ultimately reject the temporary sales tax proposal, the multi-use development project from private developers would move forward. The landowner, Sooner Investment, and the developers — Richard McKown and Cooper Scott — negotiated with councilmembers and city staff to delay their planned project so voters can decide if they want the city to buy the property.
“This is a unique opportunity we have. We have a developer and a land owner who have agreed to postpone any action to let the residents of Edmond vote on this,” said resident Lydia Lee. “So if we don’t do this now, we will never have this opportunity in the future.”
Lee said that, a month ago, she did not believe such a potential compromise was possible on the 22-acre plot of land (diagram embedded below).
“This property is one of the most contentious in the city of Edmond,” Lee said. “Hafer Park, in my opinion, is the jewel of the city of Edmond. It is one of the most popular places in Edmond. So the point is, this land is immediately south of it. This is designed to hopefully expand the park, but also maybe just as was said a moment ago to leave it in its natural state.”
The land’s sale price would be $3,998,000, and City Manager Larry Stevens said estimates indicate a $0.0025 sales tax would generate about $5 million between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2022. Any money raised beyond the sale price would be reserved for closing costs, the roughly $30,000 price of holding a special election, and other costs encountered in cleaning up the property.
‘Approve the sales tax or approve the project’
After the council moved its sales tax discussion forward, members engaged in another 40-minute discussion about whether to approve McKown’s requested zoning change for his proposed mixed-use development. With incoming Mayor Darrell Davis voting against the change, the item was approved 4-1.
During discussion, McKown described his project as a “missing middle product” in Edmond’s housing market that would feature smaller residential units in walkable proximity to retail businesses.
“If the citizens decide they want to buy this property, maybe we can find another place to build this missing middle property,” said McKown, a Norman resident. “We’re good to do an either-or.”
Concerned about McKown’s proposed development being so close to Hafer Park, Edmond residents have petitioned the council for weeks to deny the zoning change needed by the development, often citing a 2017 vote where residents opposed developing the land.
The council began discussing potentially purchasing the land — located northeast of the North Bryant Avenue and East 15th Street intersection — during its prior April meeting.
“I think that it’s time for us to see if we can’t try to get this to an election soon,” said outgoing Mayor Dan O’Neil. “Everybody can concentrate on the right thing, either to approve the sales tax or approve the project.”
While all councilmembers voted in favor of moving toward the “clear choice” between the city buying the 22 acres or the developer building 276 residential units on it, Councilman David Chapman expressed frustration.
“I don’t like our city competing with developers for land. I think it’s a terrible idea. And that looks like this,” Chapman said. “I do like that we are being very transparent by asking the city of Edmond if that is how they would like to spend their money. We would be buying a piece of land that we have no plans for. Understand that.”
O’Neil emphasized that he wants the draft ballot language to specify that the land would be purchased “for the purpose to expand or protect Hafer Park.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Chapman said. “Does that mean we can put a water tower there? Does that mean we can put a communications tower there? Does that protect it?”
“I think it’s pretty darn simple, really,” he said. “I guess if you want to make a problem out of it, you could make a problem out of it.”
Moore noted that past proposals about implementing a sales tax for city efforts have involved citizen working groups to spell out the details. Even though that is not happening currently, Moore said he believes citizens should be presented with the decision.
“The amount of time that we have right now and the amount of time that the land owner and the applicant are giving us to have that change really just needs to be centered on this land purchase,” Moore said.
Protected bike lane, trail design contract approved
The Edmond City Council approved a $284,784.50 contract for the construction of a protected bike lane along Ayers Street from Broadway Avenue to Chowning Avenue. The city received a grant for the project, as did the University of Central Oklahoma. Ayers Street runs east-west with UCO’s campus in between its connections.
Moments later, the council also approved an $8,309 agreement with Land Plan Consultants to design trails and supporting infrastructure around Arcadia Lake.
The council, in its joint capacity as the Edmond Public Works Authority, also approved a $920,483 contract with Crossland Heavy Contractors for a water treatment plant expansion project.
The council also approved a $25,000 expense for a new sign recognizing “Downtown Edmond” to replace the former digital marquee of The Edmond Sun, the community’s newspaper that was closed by the national newspaper conglomerate CNHI in May 2020. CNHI, which is owned by the Alabama Retirement Systems, took down the Edmond Sun’s website archives after deciding to close the paper.
The council appointed former State Rep. Lewis Moore to Edmond’s Community Oriented Policing Leadership Council.
Follow @NonDocMedia on:
Swearing in slated for May 2 with higher salaries
Monday’s meeting marked Dan O’Neil’s last as mayor of Edmond. On May 3, current Councilman Darrell Davis will be sworn in as mayor after being elected in April. Davis, who has served for nine years on the council, will become Edmond’s first Black mayor.
Attorney Christin Mugg and developer Stacie Peterson will also be sworn in as the new representatives of Edmond Ward 3 and Edmond Ward 4, respectively. Peterson will succeed Ward 4 Councilman Nick Massey, who did not seek re-election.
Davis, Mugg and Peterson received positive news for their pocketbooks Monday, as O’Neil made motions — and councilmembers approved them 4-0 — to double the mayor’s and the councilmembers’ salaries.
“The city mayor makes a total of $500 a month. It was the same salary I had 12 years ago when I was the city mayor,” O’Neil said. “It was the same salary Randel Shadid had when he was mayor 39 years ago. That’s a fairly low amount considering that I think the hourly rate my wife told me is $2.88 an hour. I guess some people think that’s over-paid.”
O’Neil proposed doubling that monthly salary to $1,000 and doubling the city council salaries from $350 to $700 per month.
“That seems reasonable to me. It has been 40 years since we have had an increase in that,” O’Neil said. “The demands on the City Council and the mayor are significantly higher than they were back then.”
Davis left the room prior to the proposals for salary increases, which will take effect July 1 for the Fiscal Year 2022 budget.
(Correction: This article was updated at 5:08 p.m. Tuesday, April 27, to include the correct date for the Edmond councilmember swearing in ceremony slated for Monday, May 3.)