Planning commission recommends zoning change requested by developer
By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
A developer is again looking to build an apartment complex in the Original Mile neighborhood.
Jeff Johnson, of J Lou Properties, is proposing to build a 32-unit apartment complex in the 200 blocks of E. Kittyhawk and E. Jacobs drives. The project, called the Stack, would include five two-story buildings on vacant property next to an AT&T building. All of the units would be 1-bedroom and about 700-square-feet, according to the developer.
In order to build the complex, Johnson is seeking to rezone the property from single family residential to a planned unit development governed by high-density residential.
The planning commission recommended approval of the zoning change last week despite opposition from several residents. The board voted 6-1 in favor of the zoning request with Rick Dawkins casting the lone no vote.
The city council is scheduled to vote on the request at the Oct. 27 meeting.
The proposal comes eight months after the city council rejected plans for another apartment complex called Bellom. The developer’s original plan called for a 34-unit apartment complex with ground-floor commercial space. It incorporated an urban design with six three-story buildings and narrow setbacks from street and parking behind.
David Box, a representative for the developer, presented the project and zoning request to the planning commission last week. He said they took concerns from residents in mind when developing the Stack project. They included more on-site parking, reduced the height of the buildings and removed the commercial space in the plan. Box said the project also provides modern and energy efficient infill housing, as outlined in the Original Mile study.
Several residents spoke against the plan at the Oct. 6 planning commission meeting.
Most raised concerns about the impact on the existing infrastructure, crime, as well as the developer’s other projects in Midwest City.
Larry Roberts, a resident, said the apartment does not fit within the neighborhood and will bring unwanted traffic.
“I chose to live here because it is a residential area and not an apartment complex,” he said. “… I don’t want to look at the back of someone’s apartment. I don’t want to look at the front of someone’s apartment and I don’t want to listen to the traffic coming in and out of the apartment.”
Johnson is building houses on a few vacant lots in the Original Mile neighborhood. Two of the lots include two houses. The houses feature modern designs that some residents say do not blend in with existing homes.
“They are eye sores and don’t look a thing like the Original Mile,” said Ron Masoner, a resident.
Susan Eads, a city councilwoman and resident, said she is also frustrated by construction of the housing. She said a large pile of sand on one of the construction sites washes into the street.
“I know many of you (planning commission) have experience with building and I’m sure you can appreciate the complications that are brought on a neighborhood by a construction project, but to not address those concerns and add that sand into the underground storm drain is a real problem.”
Eads said Johnson also previously has approval to build apartments near SE 15th St. and Douglas Blvd. but the land is still sit vacant.
“I ask you to not just look at this project, but to also look at what we’re doing and who we’re allowing to make this development,” she said.
Eads said the project will also increase rental property in the Original Mile and does not offer any benefits to residents.
Johnson proposed the Bellom project in August of 2019. The plan drew vocal opposition from residents over concerns about parking, traffic, the neighborhood’s aging infrastructure and possible commercial tenants.
The planning commission recommended approval to rezone the property from single family residential to a simplified planned unit development governed by high density residential district. The city council held off on a vote to allow more time to study the project and concerns.
Johnson held several community meetings and town halls to discuss the project and answer questions from the public. During the public meetings, Johnson said that if the zoning request was not approved he would sell the land to another developer who wanted to build single family rental properties.
On Feb. 12, the council voted down the zoning request. Mayor Matt Dukes, who had been a vocal backer of the plan since day one, cast the deciding vote against the project.
Johnson did not respond to an interview request at the planning commission meeting and did not return phone calls.
The Original Mile is the oldest section of Midwest City and was developed by founder W.P. “Bill” Atkinson in the 1940s. The neighborhood is bordered by SE 29th St., Air Depot Blvd., SE 15th St. and Midwest Blvd.