Council backs move for city planner’s exit Members say official became ‘lightning rod’
By Steve Lackmeyer
Tuesday, June 13, 2000
Edition: CITY, Section: NEWS, Page 3-A
Oklahoma City Council members agreed they support City Manager Glenn Deck’s decision to remove Garner Stoll as the city’s planning director.
Council members are divided, however, on whether Stoll is a victim of challenging the status quo or an outsider who never understood the dynamics of the city.
In interviews with The Oklahoman on Monday, both Mayor Kirk Humphreys and Ward 2 Councilwoman Amy Brooks lamented that Stoll became a “lightning rod” in the battle over urban sprawl and a proposed ordinance aimed at combating sign clutter.
Meanwhile, Ward 1 Councilman Frosty Peak and Ward 3 Councilman Jack Cornett, leaders of a failed attempt to oust Stoll six years ago, declined to comment on Deck’s decision last week to reassign Stoll to a “special projects” position.
“I was surprised,” Humphreys said. “But at the same time, I understand. I think Garner is firmly committed to good planning, and he has done some wonderful things for Oklahoma City. But I think there are times in which… he has become the issue instead of the issue being the issue.”
Brooks, describing herself as a “big Garner supporter,” said he was caught in the mire of trying to promote new sign ordinance laws and a new master plan to guide the city’s future growth.
“He is paying the price,” Brooks said. “We as a city seem to be so satisfied with the status quo. We will have to have a change of leaders and heart, or we won’t make any changes.”
Brooks concludes the opposition to Stoll and his proposals for better planning far outweighed supporters.
“We just haven’t heard enough from those who would support the plan,” Ward 7 Councilwoman Willa Johnson said.
Both Johnson and Ward 6 Councilwoman Ann Simank said they believe the debate over Stoll’s seven years as planner is tied directly to the fate of the city’s master plan.
Johnson noted the costs of sprawl on policing, fire protection and street maintenance is being debated across the country as evidenced at meetings of the National League of Cities.
Johnson said she regrets that critics attached perceived problems with the master plan with Stoll.
“Work has gone into the plan by literally thousands of people,” Johnson said. “And now that we’re trying to get down to the final draft, and some are trying to point at anything or any person on this… well, that’s really interesting to me.”
Ward 4 Councilwoman Frances Lowrey and Ward 8 Councilman Guy Liebmann, meanwhile, argued Stoll was wrong in assuming growth on the city’s fringe couldn’t be sustained without damaging efforts to revive the inner city.
“I didn’t dislike him,” Lowrey said. “But he couldn’t separate Boulder, Colo., (Stoll’s former employer) from Oklahoma City. He had a real disregard for the suburbs.”
Liebmann argued builders should be allowed to build where they want, and the city should not use zoning to increase or decrease land values.
“There is no area that needs more attention than another,” Liebmann said. “The city can support growth anywhere because wherever new homes are built, you’ll have more people there paying taxes.”
Gerald Gamble, a prominent city real estate broker, said Monday his recent criticism of the plan should not be confused with Stoll’s ouster.
“I’ve really not even worked with him,” Gamble said.
Gamble said his problems had to do with proposals to add funding for new programs.
He also said he was concerned that the plan’s calls for actions could create unexpected controversies.
“There are only a couple of references to the sign ordinance in this plan, and yet look at what we’ve been through on that topic the past few weeks,” Gamble said.