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City council approves rezoning for Original Mile apartment complex development

Developer Jeff Johnson, J Lou Properties, is proposing a 32-unit apartment complex
on vacant property in the Original Mile neighborhood. (Image provided)

By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon

Midwest City leaders approved a rezoning request for a controversial multifamily housing development during a meeting last week.

Ron Masoner, a Midwest City resident, speaks against a planned apartment complex in the Original Mile neighborhood. (Photo by Jeff Harrison)

The development proposal – which is called the Stack – includes a 32-unit apartment complex in the 200 blocks of E. Kittyhawk and E. Jacobs drives.  Plans call for five two-story buildings on vacant property next to an AT&T building. The units would be 1-bedroom and about 700-square-feet, according to the developer.

The City Council voted 5-1 to rezone the property from single family residential to a planned unit development governed by high-density residential.

Councilwoman Susan Eads, who represents the Original Mile neighborhood and has been a critic of the development, cast the only no vote. Councilmembers Pat Byrne, Espaniola Bowen, Sean Reed and Rick Favors along with Mayor Matt Duke voted for the request, and Christine Price-Allen abstained.

Developers say the project fits in with the city’s plan for redeveloping the neighborhood with modern and diverse housing options.

“We believe that we have taken the efforts necessary to address the concerns,” said attorney Davis Box who represents the developer Jeff Johnson. “We understand that change is sometimes hard for people, but if you look at the objective criteria that has been outlined in that plan and both the citizens and council deemed appropriate for that Original Mile, this project fits squarely in that. This is why cities have plans.”

This is the second attempt to bring a multifamily housing development to the site. Developer Jeff Johnson and J Lou Properties originally presented plans for Bellom, a 34-unit apartment complex that included three-story buildings with first-floor commercial space. Johnson presented the project in August 2018 and held several town hall meetings to discuss the project.

Several neighbors objected to the project, citing issues over parking, congestion, storm water drainage and uncertainty over commercial tenants. The council voted down the zoning request in February. Dukes, who had been a vocal supporter of the plan from day one, abstained from the vote allowing it to fail.

Johnson publically said that if the zoning request failed that he planned to sell the property to another developer who wanted to build rental house.

Residents objected to the new apartment complex plan which they say will still add to existing issues of drainage and parking.

Dukes, before opening the floor to public discussion, said the developer has addressed all of the issues that were brought forth during the first apartment complex proposal. He also emphasized that the council would vote only on the rezoning request and that developer will need to have plans approved.

“We have visited this before,” Dukes said. “We have heard all the complaints. We had three public hearings and council meetings about this. The applicant has mitigated all the complaints that were brought forth. There is nothing new on the table. The parking has been addressed, the fire lines have been address, the height has been addressed, and the retail has been addressed. Even the dumpster has been addressed recently.”

Ron Masoner, who lives near the proposed development, argued that the apartments would exemplify existing storm water drainage issues and urged the city to make infrastructure improvements and investment into the neighborhood.

“If the city just did the infrastructure improvements that need to be done, the Original Mile would look a whole lot better,” he said.

Patrick Menefee, city engineer, said the city has not received formal complaints about draining or flooding issues in the area of the development. He said debris can block storm water drains and cause temporary problems.

Eads argued that she has raised issues about draining with city leaders. She said water pools up near First Baptist Church, which is less than a block from the apartment complex proposal.

“To say there has been no reports of any drainage problems is not true,” Eads said. “I’ve had that conversation. I’ve had it in this environment, I’ve had it in community meetings and it’s been addressed with city leadership.”

Menefee said the design for the project cannot increase draining runoff. The developer must present storm water draining plans as part of the final plat that will be presented to the city council.

“As part of any design, there can be no net increase in water coming off the site,” he said.

Paul Streets, public works director, said the city has several storm drains around town that routinely get clogged with debris, including the Original Mile. The problem can be resolved with increased maintenance.

Larry Roberts, a resident, spoke out against the project. He criticized Johnson’s work history in the Original Mile including construction of several houses as part of an infill housing project with the City of Midwest City.

“Look at how long his houses have been worked on and they’re still not built,” he said. “They’ve been in build for a year. It hasn’t been a priority.”

Roberts questioned how long it would take to build the larger apartment complex and inconvenience residents.

“Look to the people for once in this case,” Roberts said.

After the discussion, the council approved the zoning request by a 5-1 vote.

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